The Pittsburgh Steelers pushed their winning streak to three by defeating the formerly 8-3 New York Giants on Sunday. The 24-14 score does not come close to truly reflecting the dominance exhibited by Pittsburgh in that contest.
Therefore, I’d like to preface this column by stating that nobody made the naughty list, except for Odell Beckham Jr., who, despite statements by prominent members of Pittsburgh’s media, is nothing like Antonio Brown in terms of attitude.
Stock up: Pittsburgh’s free agency acquisitions
Ladarius Green appears to have been worth the wait. An ankle injury (officially, maybe, but concussion issued were speculated) kept Green on the sidelines for the first half of the 2016 season just months after the Steelers handed him a hefty contract during the free agency period. The former San Diego Charger flashed some of his trademark big play ability in Pittsburgh’s win over Indianapolis on Thanksgiving, but enjoyed his long-awaited breakout with six catches for 110 yards and a touchdown against New York. Certainly, Green is not Heath Miller in terms of blocking, but he is proving himself to be a dangerous weapon in Pittsburgh’s offense.
Mike Mitchell, who signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent after the 2013 season, defended a pair of key passes and was generally a royal nuisance to Beckham Jr. for the duration of Sunday’s game. I was among Mitchell’s most vocal critics for most of the season, but he is definitely beginning to turn his play around.
Stock up - The secondary
Beckham Jr. had 10 catches for 100 yards against the Steelers, which is a statistic that I had to triple check in order to confirm its validity. Beckham Jr.’s impact game was minimal, thanks in large part to Ross Cockrell, who played arguably his best game of the season on Sunday. Across the field, Artie Burns held fellow rookie Sterling Shepard to four catches for 21 yards. Eli Manning, meanwhile, completed 24 of 39 passes for just 195 yards and two interceptions. Pittsburgh’s usually-leaky secondary totally locked down one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the NFL, and they did it mostly on their own. The defensive line played well (two sacks; three quarterback hits), but much of their success can be attributed to tight coverage downfield. Sean Davis also collected his first career interception, which is a nice little trinket.
Stock up - Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown is a football playing superhuman and we are all just living in his world.
Stock up - Pretty much everything else
Honestly, it’s too hard to pick specifics in this game, as everything went pretty well. Notably, Pittsburgh’s defense followed up a strong game against Indianapolis with an even better outing against the Giants, and I would argue that the defense actually played a bigger part in Sunday’s win than the offense. Numerous mistakes by the offense - including dropped passes, holding penalties and turnovers - allowed the Giants to remain within striking distance in a game that should have been a blowout. For every opportunity gifted by Pittsburgh’s offense, however, the defense had an answer, forcing a pair of turnovers and holding the Giants without a fourth-down conversion on three attempts.
With a win over the Giants, the Steelers (7-5) are tied for first place in the AFC North and have games against Buffalo, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Cleveland still on the schedule. The ease of that slate, coupled with Pittsburgh’s recent string of success, should leave them in a good spot for a postseason run.