Giants-Steelers: Steelers’ Defense Stifles Giants’ Offense

Jim Mancari , Contributor

Even without Troy Polamalu, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense lived up to the hype in their 24-20 win over the Giants.

Sure, the Giants had trouble mustering any offensive attack, but sometimes you have to tip your cap to a strong defensive effort for your opponent.

The Steelers’ defense came into the game allowing 396.8 yards per game – good enough for second best in the league. Against the Giants, Pittsburgh only allowed 182 total yards (114 passing, 68 rushing).

From the start, Eli Manning seemed a bit off. He was given plenty of time to throw the ball from his offensive line but threw an interception off his back foot early, leading to a Steelers’ touchdown.

Steelers’ cornerback Keenan Lewis was red hot to start the game, recording three defended passes on Manning’s first six throws. However, it was Lewis who committed two huge pass interference penalties – one for 41 yards and the other for 46 – which extended Giants’ drives.

Even on the Giants’ first touchdown, Big Blue got a break on the personal foul hit to the head call on Victor Cruz by Ryan Clark. Clark clearly hit Cruz legally, but the penalty led to an Andre Brown touchdown on the next play.

The Giants had trouble all game extending their drives. The team was just 2-of-10 on third down plays.

Big Blue was also just 1-of-2 in scoring touchdowns in the red zone, which doesn’t sound terrible but wound up being the difference in the game. Following a Corey Webster interception at the Steelers’ 33-yard line, the Giants settled for a Lawrence Tynes 23-yard field goal after being unable to score from inside the five-yard line.

Manning finished the day just 10-of-24 with no touchdowns and an interception. Hakeem Nicks caught only one ball, but that 10-yard catch gave Manning 30,000 passing yards for his career.

Victor Cruz was targeted 11 times but only caught five passes for 67 yards. He had a drop and appeared to run the wrong route on the Giants’ final drive.

With 3:55 to go, it almost seemed fitting that Manning got the chance to lead his team to a come-from-behind victory, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. A win would have fit the script of a region trying to rebuild after the storm.

However, the Steelers’ defense forced its third straight three-and-out, which ultimately led to a Pittsburgh victory.

At 6-3, the Giants’ offense will look to get on track as the team hits the road to take on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.