Whenever the Giants and Steelers –- two proud franchises filled with tradition –- face each other, it promises to be a slugfest.
Here are five things to watch for on Sunday:
Eli versus Big Ben: The two 2004 draft classmates have faced each other just twice before, splitting the head-to-head series. So enjoy this rare meeting of the two quarterbacks who were atop the Giants’ 2004 draft board.
The Giants traded a bounty of picks to the Chargers for Eli Manning. But if a trade could not be made with the Chargers, the Giants were prepared to take Ben Roethlisberger. In the end, everything worked out just fine for both QBs and franchises.
But it certainly will be fun watching the two for the remainder of their careers, and seeing who ends up with more Super Bowls. Both have two rings, with Roethlisberger playing in three Super Bowls and Manning winning both of his trips to the big game.
Bag Ben: The Giants have faced all sorts of mobile quarterbacks this season in Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III. But Roethlisberger may be the strongest and hardest to bring down of them all.
“Yeah, it’s been no easy task being a Giant D-lineman this year,” Justin Tuck said. “We’ve had some different animals out there.”
The Giants have to make sure to keep Roethlisberger from making plays while in the grasp of a defender. They've got to wrap him up when they can. Tuck has also noticed that Roethlisberger is getting rid of the ball faster than he used to. If there’s a time for the Giants’ trio of defensive ends –- Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora –- to have a really good game all together at once, this wouldn’t be a bad time.
Protect and serve: The Giants' offensive line has been excellent this season in pass protection, only allowing Manning to be sacked six times. Only three of those six sacks have come after the season opener.
The Steelers love to bring pressure, and the Giants' O-line will be tested this week. The Giants will put David Diehl back at right tackle after Sean Locklear held the position when Diehl went down with an MCL injury in Week 2. Diehl has been eased back in and will start according to Locklear, who told the Newark Star-Ledger and Newsday of the change.
It’s imperative that the Giants keep Manning from getting hit.
No Heath after Halloween: The Giants have to do a much better job of slowing down the tight end this week, after Jason Witten had a career game against them on Sunday, with 18 catches for 167 yards.
Heath Miller leads the Steelers with six touchdowns.
“We definitely don’t want a repeat of last week from the tight end position,” safety Kenny Phillips said. “We’re definitely going to give him some different looks, get some different guys on him and if I have to cover him, I’m up for the task.”
Whenever Phillips returns from a MCL injury, it’s quite possible that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell could bring back his three-safety wrinkle with Phillips, Rolle and upstart Stevie Brown playing together.
No November swoon: The Giants are 6-2 again, and you know what could be coming –- yet another midseason funk.
The Giants have often stumbled after Halloween. However, if they can handle their business in these next two games against the Steelers and Bengals, they could go into their bye week at 8-2. That would put them in terrific position to win the NFC East and defend their Super Bowl title.
But first, they must defend their home turf against the Steelers, a team that has only won once on the road this season. It’s no easy task, but the Giants can make a statement against the Steelers at home, where their best win so far has been a dramatic victory over the Redskins. Their two most convincing wins have come on the road, against the Panthers and 49ers.