Entering their inter-conference home matchup against the New York Giants on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers look to accomplish something they haven’t done all season long, which is to win three games in a row. Two previous back-to-back victories resulted in losses in their next contest.
Avoiding that situation again will involve trying to defeat one of the NFL’s hottest teams, with the Giants looking for their seventh consecutive win. In contrast, the Steelers’ last two victories have come against the winless Cleveland Browns and an Indianapolis Colts team that was missing quarterback Andrew Luck.
One of the chief reasons that New York has been able to run off their string of wins can be directly tied to the play of their defense. The Giants are tied with their division rival, the Dallas Cowboys, in sixth place among all 32 teams when it comes to points allowed at 213 in 11 games.
New York’s opponents have attempted to beat them by going through the air, with the Giants having the third-highest number of passes thrown against them. One of the reasons that hasn’t worked is that not only are they tied for the second-fewest touchdown passes allowed with 10, but their ability to pick off passes to stop drives matches that number. On the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers obviously have to gameplan against Eli Manning’s number one target Odell Beckham, who is coming off a two-touchdown game against the Browns.
That means that the combination of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will be challenged to find a way to break through that roadblock. Brown has found the end zone 10 times this season, so whether he manages to score on Sunday may serve as a window into the final result.
Another person that will be the object of New York’s focus will be Le’Veon Bell, who’s dangerous on the ground and through the air. His rushing totals may suffer if the Giants maintain their 2016 success, since they’re tied for third-best in the NFL by allowing only 3.5 yards per carry and sixth-best in fewest yards allowed.
The defender that Roethlisberger needs to be worried about is Jason Pierre-Paul, who has seven sacks this season. That’s somewhat misleading since Pierre-Paul also has 20 hurries. On Sunday, he was even adept enough to return a fumble from Cleveland’s Josh McCown for a touchdown. That means the onus is on the Pittsburgh offensive line to keep Pierre-Paul in check.
The Steelers have struggled when it comes to hosting NFC teams, holding a 3-4 record since 2013, including a last-second loss to the Dallas Cowboys on November 13th. Their nine days of rest will be an asset, since that’s something that’s agreed with them in home games after a win, with an 8-1 record over the last 25 years in that category.