You've probably already noticed his presence, but Ed Valentine (ETVal), who authors the solid NYG site Big Blue View, asked me if I was interested in exchanging a few questions about each other's respective teams and this Sunday's highly anticipated matchup. My answers to his questions should be available on his site tomorrow morning. Thanks to Ed for initiating this. And oh, real quick, we've built quite a reputation for ourselves Steelers fans with how we conduct ourselves and how knowledgable, chill and even-handed we are about the game. All of y'all have a played a part in it, but let's keep the bar as high as possible by avoiding the nonsense that often errupts on blogs. To the questions:
1) I liked your first question so much, I'm going to throw it right back at ya: Statistically the Giants offense and Steelers defense are right at the top of the league. How do you see this matchup unfolding? Do you think the Giants will have any sort of sustained success running the football against a rush defense that has been impenetrable for all of the decade?
BBV: I love this question, and I love this matchup. Sustained success? Maybe not. I respect the Steelers defense. I do think the Giants will find a way to pop a handful of good runs, and maybe one or two will break big. Why? Because the Giants can come at you with so many different styles of running backs. The big banger in Brandon Jacobs. The underrated speed guy in Derrick Ward. The slashing, quick tough to bring down Ahmad Bradshaw. If one guy can't get it done the Giants will keep probing and trying different guys until they hit a play or two -- that is what makes their run game so dangerous. Plus, they have a terrific line and an excellent fullback in Madison Hedgecock.
2) If my memory serves me correctly, I don't remember hearing much negative about Plexico Buress the last couple of years. Perhaps a minor thing or two, but similar to what happened when he left Pittsburgh, something about winning Super Bowls kicks in the prima donna in him. What's going on? Is he in the Giants long term plans?
BBV: Are you forgetting that Plax got himself suspended a couple of weeks ago for not showing up for practice and failing to call the team? Oh, and the shouting match last weekend where he apparently cursed at Tom Coughlin on the sidelines? Plax is a great player, and a great competitor on the field. He showed that last season, having a great year on one leg. He just signed a five-year contract, and the Giants want him around for the duration. His recent behavior tells me that won't happen, though. Eventually Burress and the Giants will tire of each other and they will have to move him.
BTSC Follow-up: Yes, I did read about the Plax suspension recently and the outburst on the sideline. Hence, the question :)
3) Tell us a little bit about your young defensive coordinator. Have you come to peace with the fact that this is likely the last year you'll be enjoying his services before he assumes the head coaching duties somewhere?
BBV: Don't say that, don't say that, DON'T SAY THAT! We are locking Steve Spagnuolo in a box and keeping him FOREVER! Seriously, I think Giants fans understand how lucky we are to have Spagnuolo, and know that he probably will be a head coach somewhere next season. If the Giants could somehow entice him to stay with an offer to take over for Tom Coughlin in a few years that would be great, but I don't see it happening. TC has three years left after this one, and we want him around (something we never thought we would say a year ago). So, we will have to come to terms with Spags being a short-timer.
4) Are the Giants still the team to beat in the NFL? Yes, I know they're the team to beat until somebody does it in the playoffs, but are they really the team to beat? I'm certainly willing to listen to an affirmative argument after what I've seen from them.
BBV: The answer is, yes, they are the team to beat. Will they still be the team to beat at the end of the regular season? I hope so. Fact is, they have an absolutely brutal schedule the rest of the season -- beginning this weekend. Pittsburgh, Dallas and Philly twice, Washington, Baltimore, Arizona, Carolina, Minnesota.
Who knows what will happen the next 10 weeks. Are the Giants good enough to repeat? I think they are good enough to have a chance, but so much changes week to week in the NFL it's impossible to say what shape they will be in come playoff time.
BTSC Followup: Ed, did you just refer to Dallas, Baltimore and Arizona as absolutely brutal opponents? Hehe, half kidding.
5) The Steelers special teams have been a lot better in 2008. There is nothing special about our special teams in terms of returns, but our coverage units have been much better than last year. Anything to worry about this weekend against the Giants return game?
BBV: Interesting question. Ahmad Bradshaw has been returning kickoffs, and he hasn't really broken loose yet. Last season he had several big returns and I know there are some coming eventually. He's too good and too dangerous not to break a return at some point. Hopefully, that will be this week. Domenik Hixon is a pretty good punt returner and has broken a couple of big returns so far this season. He also might see some action returning kickoffs. So, the Giants can be dangerous in the return game.