The New York Giants will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week nine with a chance to create further separation in the NFC East. With the Dallas Cowboys heading down to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles on the road at New Orleans, there is a chance that Big Blue could head into Week 10 with a three-game lead in the division. Although Pittsburgh is 1-3 away from Heinz Field this season, this matchup will be anything but a cakewalk for the Giants.
Despite putting a 27-12 beating on the Washington Redskins in Week eight, the Steelers will face some unexpected adversity as they prepare for Big Blue. Not only will Pittsburgh play without their best three running backs, Troy Polamalu and Marcus Gilbert, but the Steelers will have to travel and play on the same day.
With that said, you can count on this being a close, hard fought matchup between two of the NFL's most prominent organizations.
Commit to a Rushing Attack
The Giants play their best football when they have a balanced offense. Although Pittsburgh is ranked as the 9th best rushing defense in the NFL, the Giants have run the ball successfully against quality 3-4 defenses before. In Week five, Big Blue ran for 149 yards on the San Francisco 49ers. This team is talented enough to sustain a rushing attack, but the offensive line must be strong at the point of attack to do so.
However, even if the Giants are unable to get the ball moving on the ground, it's imperative that the Steelers respect the run throughout the game. The Steelers come into MetLife Stadium this Sunday boasting the NFL's best passing defense. Although Troy Polamalu is out, safeties Ryan Clark and Will Allen are two ball hawking defenders over the middle of the field. If the Giants allow the Steelers to sit back and wait for the pass, it could be a long day for Eli Manning.
Target Ike Taylor
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor has been horrendous this season. Despite being Pittsburgh's No.1 cornerback, Taylor has personally allowed five touchdowns this season and for quarterbacks to post a 115.5 QB rating on all balls thrown in his direction.
Although the Steeler's pass defense has been stellar so far through 2012, Taylor must be tested early by the Giants' explosive wide receiver core. If Eli Manning can exploit the Steelers early through the air, it could open up a consistent rushing attack as the contest progresses. This could enable the Giants to put some points on the board in the latter stages of the game.
Use Three Safeties on Defense
Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams are two of the Giants' quickest, most athletic linebackers. However, neither will be on the field this Sunday. Instead of digging further into the linebacker core for guys like Spencer Paysinger, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell should utilize his newfound depth in the secondary.
If Kenny Phillips returns this week, it would give the Giants the ability to bring back their three safety look on defense. With the Steelers playing without their three best running backs, the Giants can afford to play their safeties around the line of scrimmage this week. Furthermore, keeping three safeties on the field will enable Big Blue to mix up coverages and allow their faster players to line up against Pittsburgh's versatile wide receiver core.
Ben Roethlisberger Vs. Giants Secondary
The Giants have allowed 650 passing yards over their last two games. It's not going to get any easier this weekend. The Steelers will bring the NFL's seventh ranked passing offense to the Meadowlands this Sunday and will look to establish a lethal aerial attack.
The Giants secondary is going to have to hold up against some some talented receivers this weekend. Mike Wallace has the ability to stretch the field, Antonio Brown has 40 receptions so far and Emmanuel Sanders can be effective in the slot. The Giants should be healthier in the secondary than they have been all year for this game, but it's imperative that they improve upon their prior performances.
Big Game Alert
The Steelers will be playing this game without starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Rookie out of Ohio State Mike Adams will replace Gilbert. Although Adams has tremendous size at 6'7" and 323 pounds, he is a statue in terms of quickness.
With the Steelers surely looking to establish an aerial attack, the Giants will line up Jason Pierre-Paul opposite Adams in an attempt to create a mismatch. It should be interesting to see how the young buck responds to having one of the most athletic players in the league lineup opposite him for an entire game. Pierre-Paul should easily win this matchup.
The Steelers are 1-3 on the road this season. They will have little to no ability to establish a rushing attack without Jonathon Dwyer, and they will be missing Troy Polamalu in the secondary as well. Furthermore, Pittsburgh will be getting up early in the morning to take a plane ride to Newark on Sunday because of complications with their hotel due to Hurricane Sandy.
The Giants must force turnovers on defense like they have in past games. With the Steelers relying solely on their passing attack to generate offense this Sunday, Big Blue should be able to make some plays on the ball. This game will be a nail biter, but the Giants should be able to come out on top.
Giants 26 , Steelers 23
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