The Steelers won their last two games with convincing performances on defense, performances which have been minimized due to the competition. There should be no minimizing of their latest victim, the NY Giants. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. are one of the best quarterback/wide receiver tandems in the NFL and provide any secondary with a stiff challenge. On Sunday, the young Steelers secondary was more than up for the Challenge. The stat line may show that Beckham caught 10 passes for 100 yards, but that doesn’t tell most of story. All afternoon it appeared that Odell was headed for a meltdown, because when the ball arrived, for the most part, Ross Cockrell or Artie Burns was there to knock it away. OBJ spent most of the game begging the refs to call defensive pass interference. Most of the damage that Beckham did, came in garbage time after the game was mostly decided.
Equally frusted all game was Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, who finished the game 24/39 for 195 yards. He tossed for two scores, but he was also picked off twice near the goal line, once each by Lawrence Timmons and rookie safety Sean Davis. Manning, who also faced a fair amount of pressure during the game, was sacked twice, once by James Harrison, and once by Ricardo Matthews. Harrison’s pressure on Manning in the first quarter resulted in a safety that gave the Steelers an early 2-0 lead, as Giants tackle Ereck Flowers, held on to Harrison, for dear life, to try and preserve Eli’s health. The Giants also had little success running the ball, gaining just 56 yards on 14 attempts.
In what may be the best overall performance of the season, the Steelers defense limited the Giants to just 234 total yards, preventing Eli Manning from being able to find any kind of rhythm. It greatly helped that the Steelers defense was able to get off the field, holding the Giants to 4-11 on third down attempts, and another 0-3 on fourth down. The defense was on the field for just 25:52, a total of 55 snaps. Lawrence Timmons, Artie Burns, and Sean Davis lead the Steelers with seven tackles apiece and made the games biggest plays. Keith Butler’s much maligned unit appears to be hitting their stride at just the right time, with a rediscovered pass rush and two rookies in the secondary who finally look comfortable in the defense.
While the defense did what they were supposed to do against inferior teams like the Browns and the Colts, they followed it up with an even better outing against a playoff caliber. The defense gave all who witnessed their domination over the Giants, a preview of what they can be. However, for this performance to have real meaning, for the Steelers to achieve their ultimate goal, the defense has to consistently stack these games together week in and week out. The simple truth is, from here on out, each game will be the most important game of the year, and to reach THE most important game of the year, the defense has to be at it’s very best.