With the NFL regular season just a few short weeks away, the Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Met Life Stadium to face the New York Giants in the first official week of preseason games (7.30pm EST, Saturday).
Last year the two teams also met in the first week of the preseason with the Giants emerging victorious. For the Steelers, this was their first of eight consecutive losses that lasted into the regular season, a trend Pittsburgh does not want to repeat this year. New York meanwhile, coming off a comeback win in the Annual Hall of Fame Game, will look to continue their streak in advance of the regular season.
With much on the line for both teams, here are some storylines to follow in advance of Saturday’s game.
New York Giants: Running in the Wrong Direction
Just a few years ago, the New York Giants had one of the best running back tandems in all of football. Led by power back Brandon Jacobs and the elusiveness of Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants went on to win two Super Bowl championships. The two played together from 2007-2011, putting up totals of 7544 yards and 66 TD. The pair was unstoppable and New York had great success because of them.
Fast forward to the 2014-15 season. Jacobs is without a team, Bradshaw is playing for the Indianapolis Colts and the Giants are in another year where they have more questions than answers at one of football’s most important positions.
Just a few weeks ago, Giants RB David Wilson sustained yet another neck injury and was advised by a team of doctors to stop pursuing a career in football for fear of medical concerns. Wilson, after missing most of last year due to a neck injury, was expected to lead the Giants this year and was No.2 on the depth chart. Then, no more than three days after Wilson announced his retirement, No.3 on the depth chart, Peyton Hillis, went down with a bad sprain and is expected to miss at least a few weeks.
Jacobs was brought back to the Giants last season as one by the one the team’s running backs fell. This year, the same situation is occurring but Jacobs won’t figure into it, as he announced his retirement earlier this year.
Instead, the Giants have to move forward with only their starter, Rashad Jennings (pictured) and an inexperienced group of youngsters. It is an unenviable situation for any team but for one like the Giants who were hoping to contend in 2014, it is downright devastating. Not only do they have to worry about Jennings going down but they will also have to run their offense without the aid of a second pass-catching back. Jennings will be getting a lot of carries and for someone who only had one year of carrying full RB duties prior to this one, New York is going to have to make sure not to overwork him.
So throughout the preseason, expect to see not much of Jennings and a lot of the young, unproven backs. In the opener for the Giants, rookie Andre Williams got his chance to star. After a solid start to training camp, Williams came into the game with a chance to win a key role on the team in light of the recent RB situation. He had seven carries for 48 yards and a TD in his first professional game.
Williams will probably get another chance against the Steelers and if he continues to perform, could very well find himself with a spot as the backup running back on the depth chart. He is currently fourth behind Michael Cox, a second year player out of Massachusetts.
Pittsburgh Steelers: A Return to the Steel Curtain?
Back when Terry Bradshaw was quarterbacking the Steelers to a slew of championships in the 70s, the attention wasn’t always on the four-time Super Bowl winning QB. In fact, as good as the Hall of Famer Bradshaw was, the main draw to the Pittsburgh dynasty was a formidable defense that went by the name of the Steel Curtain.
The Steel Curtain defense was almost unstoppable as it set records for fewest yards allowed per season and per game as well as low defensive point totals. The defense helped the Steelers win four Super Bowls from the mid-to-late 70s and established the team as one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties.
Since the Steel Curtain’s reign ended, the Steelers haven’t quite enjoyed that classic dominance. That is not to say though that their defense has been bad. In fact, over the past decade, the Pittsburgh D has been one of the best and most consistent in the NFL. It has only been recently that this defense has struggled.
But the Steelers are hoping to see that change. Led by a strong defensive draft class and armed with awareness that they play in the defensive-minded AFC North, Pittsburgh is well prepared to get their top notch defense back.
In doing so, two of the names to watch both in preseason and during the regular season are rookie first round pick LB Ryan Shazier and second year LB Jarvis Jones. Both of these young backs are talented and have a good deal of ability. Shazier especially has had a strong camp and Jones is known for a level of explosiveness. These two may not be Steel Curtain quality, but if they continue to show a strong level of defensive skill, they very well could bring Pittsburgh back to defensive glory.
Steelers vs Giants Betting Picks
- With the Giants coming off a preseason win and having the advantage of playing at home, the sportsbooks have them a couple of points favorites. While this is a safe bet, it is going to be very interesting to see the Giants inexperienced running backs going toe to toe with Shazier and Jones on the front line. But even in the preseason where starters won’t see more than a quarter, home field still means something. So take the Giants -2.5pts on the spread at odds of -115 with BetOnline Sportsbook to once again beat the Steelers in the preseason. It is -3pts for +110 with Bovada if you want better odds for the risk of the extra half point handicap.
- As for the over/under, it’s a pretty average 37 points. Considering the Steelers improved defense and the Giants question marks, I’d recommend the under on this one with BetOnline at betting odds of -110.