The Pittsburgh Steelers are a game over .500 and riding a mini win streak heading into week 13. Enter the 8-3 New York Giants, on a six game win streak of their own and also fighting to stay relevant in their conference playoff race. Despite their record, the Giants are chasing the Cowboys for the NFC East title and are two games back with five games left to play. This, among other things that I’ll touch on in this article, makes them a dangerous opponent for the 4:25 kickoff on Sunday at Heinz Field. I’m going to walk you through scenarios that could lead to Steelers win or a Giants win at the end of day.
Why the Steelers will win: The Steelers should win the time of possession battle. According to teamrankings.com the Steelers rank 19th in the league at 49.72% while the Giants rank 31st at 44.86%. This, in part, is due to the teams’ respective ranks for their rushing offenses. The Steelers are 18th in the league with 100.9 yards per game on the ground while the Giants are again 31st with only 79.5 yards per game on the ground. The Steelers should be able to take advantage of this and grind out long drives, control the clock and end each drive with a touchdown. Keeping Eli Manning and his host of talented receivers off the field as long as possible. Advantage, Steelers as they also rank 14th in the league in third down offense, converting an average 5.4 third downs per game and the Giants defense is near the bottom in this category, ranked 26th and allowing 5.7 third down conversions per game. In away games the Giants are allowing almost 97 yards per game over the first 12 weeks and arguably the best running back they faced was Ezekiel Elliott, who was getting his first NFL action in week one. Le’Veon Bell brings a different type of threat. Bell should find success—especially if the Steelers’ passing game gets off to a good start against the 29th ranked Giants pass defense, who so far have allowed an average of 264.7 yards per game against the likes of Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rogers and Kirk Cousins. Once again the question will be who else will step up besides Antonio Brown and Bell. If Ladarius Green continues to show up and the combination of Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates and Cobi Hamilton can make a handful of plays for Ben Roethlisberger, then Brown and Bell will find room to work and put points on the board.
Why the Giants will win: A porous Steelers secondary. Yes, the Steelers are starting to trend up after playing two bad offenses, but they are still ranked 20th in the league against the pass. The Steelers have allowed almost a 65% completion percentage to opposing offenses through 11 games. The Giants have a franchise quarterback in Eli Manning and a solid cast of receivers, including Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard. Beckham has 915 yards receiving and eight touchdowns so far this season. He is a tough match-up for very good corners. He will have opportunities to make plays against the Steelers’ defensive backs, especially if Keith Butler can’t find ways to get pressure on Manning. If this is the case, the Giants will outscore the Steelers and walk out of Heinz Field with a win.
On paper the Steelers and Giants are fairly evenly matched. My biggest concern for this game isn’t about the rankings or stats of either team. Rather, the usual story-line from the five losses this season, and even through some of the wins; team discipline, particularly on special teams. If the men who’s job it is to contain and bring the return man down don’t carry out their assignments, the difference in this game could be either a special teams score or field position that favors the Giants late in the game.
At the end of the day, I believe this game will be a relatively high scoring affair, with both quarterbacks throwing for multiple touchdowns to their talented receivers. I think the Steelers get the win, with the difference being the 12th man at Heinz Field and the not-so-secret weapon known as Le’Veon Bell.