Just a few short seasons ago, a match-up between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers (Saturday, 7.30pm ET) would have been a huge game, even if it was just the first week of preseason football.
Both teams are twice Super Bowl champions in the decade and have won four of the last eight titles including back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.
But entering the 2013 season, both the Giants and Steelers have fallen from glory a bit. Injuries, transitional periods and declining players have presented these franchises with problems as both have struggled to find consistency. In 2012, for the first time in three years, neither the Giants or Steelers reached the postseason. The Giants, who were defending their 2011 Super Bowl title, failed to reach the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons.
The Steelers meanwhile, finished 1st in opponents passing yards and 2nd in opponents rushing yards and were once again one of the best defenses in the league. However, it still wasn’t enough to overcome the problems from a weakened receiving core and as a result, the team finished just 8-8, their first non-winning record since 2006.
Because of last season’s results, both the Steelers and Giants are going to be looking to rebound in 2013. Both teams have high hopes and both teams plan to go back to the playoffs after a year away. And while the first game of the preseason isn’t going to determine which of these teams reaches the postseason, it certainly begins the long road of redemption.
For this game, Bovada Sportsbook has the Steelers favorite by just a three-point field goal margin (ie: Pittsburgh -3pts at odds of +105). BetOnline, offers a 2.5 point spread with a -110 payout on both teams. The over/under currently sits at 35.5 points on both betting sites.
Pittsburgh Receivers Battle for Roster Spots
Training camp and team practices are ways for borderline players to show off their abilities and why they deserve to make the roster. That is all fine and good but team practices can and will only show so much. It is for this reason that live games, such as the one on Saturday, prove to be key for those players that are trying to earn roster spots.
And since this is just the first game for both teams, don’t expect to see Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger taking most of the snaps. For that reason, you also probably shouldn’t expect the first string wide receivers to be on the field for any longer than the first 12 minutes of the game.
Considering the logjam of potential Pittsburgh receivers and the issues had at this position last year, this is a good thing and this game will be the first step in determining which of these guys makes the team and which might be cut before the season starts.
The Steelers biggest loss in the offseason came when Mike Wallace left in free agency. The 27-year-old Wallace was Pittsburgh’s top receiver and huge endzone threat. He had 64 receptions for 836 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
With Wallace gone, the Steelers are looking for who might step up as the new top guy. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders remain the top two on the depth chart but guys like long time veterans, Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery, as well as rookies Markus Wheaton, JD Woods, Jusin Brown and others, will all be fighting to remain on the roster.
So when thinking about betting on the game, consider that Pittsburgh quarterbacks are going to be throwing passes to as many as 10 different wide receivers and that doesn’t include running back and tight end options.
For many of these guys, this game is the first step to proving they are roster worthy. So you can expect big performances from the Pittsburgh receiving core permitting they can outplay the newly worked Giants’ defense.
Giants Will Look to Find their Defensive Identity
Let’s talk about that reworked Giants defense. Last season, the New York defense was absolutely awful. They finished 28th in the league in opponents passing yards and 25th in opponents rushing yards. On offense, the Giants were a little better than average as they continue to benefit from the incredible talent of Victor Cruz and the solid quarterbacking of Eli Manning.
Both Manning and Cruz as well as the rest of the Giants’ offensive weapons are pretty much set. But even if their offense continues to be strong like it has in past years, none of that is going to matter if the defense can’t show up.
Obviously since the Steelers are in the middle of their own transitional period with their wide receivers, the Giants’ defense isn’t really going to have its first test right away. However the opposite can be gleaned as well, because if New York can’t keep Pittsburgh out of the endzone, it is not a good early sign for this defense.
The New York defense is very much still a work in progress so I would actually expect that Pittsburgh is going to run up the score a bit. The Giants’ top pass rusher in Osi Omenyiora is gone, Antrel Rolle is in the midst of learning a new position and top defensive linemen Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul aren’t even going to play in the game because of injuries.
Giants vs Steelers Final Betting Picks
So in New York, there is a weakened defensive line that is still looking for an identity. Couple that with receivers from Pittsburgh that are fighting to earn a roster spot, and you might expect that the Steelers will win this game.
However there is something to be said about players and teams trying to prove themselves and both the Steelers and Giants are in exactly that situation. Both teams and their coaches are going to learn a lot about the teams they might be fielding in 2013 and in a meaningless game for stats, there is a lot on the line in terms of redemption.