The most dangerous factor going into the game against the Giants on Sunday was the ever present potential of the Giants explosive offense. The reigning Super Bowl champions have been having far from a hangover from lifting the Lombardi Trophy this season. Though numerous wins this season were close calls for them, Eli paved the way for 4th quarter comebacks – something that probably left most of Steeler Nation uneasy as the team walked onto the field that afternoon. However, the Steelers defense limited three key players of the Giants offense that left them rather ineffective the entire game.
Limit Run Game
Ahmad Bradshaw has started every game for the Giants this season and is only 40 yards away from eclipsing his rushing total from all of last season. He’s not a bruiser type back, but cuts well and is a compliment to the passing game and allows for an effective play action. The Steelers front three wreaked havoc on the Giants line on Sunday when it came to stopping the run. Hampton showed up in a big way, and Big Snack took up space in the running lanes and allowed for the line backers and secondary to have an effective run blitz. Bradshaw picked up only 48 yards and put all the pressure on the passing game. Familiar territory for the Giants, but not having any ground game really limited how the Giants attacked the field.
Keep Cruz Out of Endzone
Victor Cruz is always dangerous down the field. Out of his seven total so far this season, he has touchdown catches for 77 and 80 yards. Eli targeted Cruz early and tried to get the big plays going in order to knock the Steelers defense off balance. The Steelers kept Cruz to 68 yards receiving and kept him out of the endzone. The defense went a step further when Ryan Clark hit Cruz in the endzone on an attempted 3rd and goal pass play from Manning. The pass was slightly offline and was tipped by the defense. Cruz was crossing the endzone as was Ryan Clark. Clark lowered his shoulder into Cruz and lit him up as you can see from the picture. Clark was called for helmet to helmet contact even though replay clearly showed there wasn’t any. The Giants would score on a run play two plays later, but Clark had already thrown down the gauntlet for Cruz. Cruz sat out for a bit while team doctors evaluated his ribs. Seemingly fine, Cruz came back into the game but was never really a factor from there on out. It happens in football often and harkens to what Steelers football is all about. Clark made Cruz pay the price for a crossing route in the endzone, and Cruz ‘heard the footsteps’ the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. It took away the big play and kept the Steelers in a game that the refs seemed determined to screw them over in.
Keep Manning Under Control for 4 Quarters
This could not have gone any more beautifully for the Steelers. The Steelers’ tight coverage on most plays coupled with a pass rush that found its way through the offensive line often enough, kept Manning guessing most of the game. Eli went 10/24 for 125 yards and an interception. The Steelers made him look like old Joe Flacco out there – forcing poor throws and poor decision making. Manning’s poor performance for most of the game kept the Steelers in the game even when the refs had spotted the Giants 14 points in the first half on a series of simply awful calls. His numerous three-and-outs in the 4th quarter allowed the Steelers offense to score 14 unanswered points. The Comeback Kid was no where to be found this particular Sunday. The Steelers kept Eli under control for the entire 60 minutes, and it was awesome. Just think what this score could have been if it weren’t for the bad officiating. 24-6? 24-3?
The Steelers defense had a very complete game on Sunday. A few phantom calls allowed this game to be a lot closer than it really was on paper and on the field. I’ll take holding the opposing offense to 182 yards any day.