NFL Nation: Giants-Steelers
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
PITTSBURGH -- After the Pittsburgh Steelers gave up 12 unanswered points and blew a fourth-quarter lead to the reigning Super Bowl champions Sunday, they came to the realization that the New York Giants are not only better than them, but they're also better than everyone else.
"They are Super Bowl champions for a reason," was the general quote uttered at least a half-dozen times Sunday night.
|Rick Stewart/Getty Images|
|Stopping (and sacking) Big Ben seems to be the key to beating the Steelers.|
The Giants (6-1) are the cream of the crop at the midpoint of the season. They earned that honor by doing what championship-caliber teams do: hang around on the road, then kick it into another gear in crunch time.
The Steelers (5-2) showed they are not far behind, but they still have a ways to go in terms of executing against the NFL's best for four quarters.
Here are some other observations in the wake of Pittsburgh's loss:
Pressure busts pipes (and Big Ben)
At the midpoint of the season, the book is out on beating the Steelers: beat up "Big Ben" and you have a great chance to win.
Coming off a 38-10 thrashing of the Cincinnati Bengals in which Ben Roethlisberger wasn't sacked, the Steelers gave up five sacks and several more shots on their quarterback against the Giants on Sunday.
As a result, Roethlisberger was never able to find a comfort zone. He completed only 13-of-29 passes for 189 yards, one touchdown and a season-high four interceptions. It was the first multi-interception game of the season for the Steelers' quarterback, who also bore some of the responsibility for the sacks after holding the ball too long.
"It's disappointing offensively from top to bottom and it starts with me," Roethlisberger admitted. "We're just not getting it done ... We saw some things today that we didn't see on film."
A botched special teams play by the Steelers allowed the Giants to tie the game at 14 and quarterback Eli Manning led one of his patented fourth-quarter drives. On a key third-and-7 play, he found Steve Smith for a 25-yard gain. Two plays later, he connected with Plaxico Burress for an 8-yard gain and the Giants scored quickly after that to make it 21-14.
Once again, though, it was the defense that kept the Giants in the game. Ben Roethlisberger was picked off four times. He was also sacked five times. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka had the best game of his career with three sacks and a forced fumble. The Steelers focused on stopping defensive end Justin Tuck, and Kiwanuka took advantage of the strategy.
Burress didn't start the game as punishment for skipping a treatment Saturday for his sore neck. He played, but he was a non-factor until the end of the game. Trailing 14-9 in the fourth quarter, Manning made his best throw of the day. On fourth-and-six from the Steelers' 34-yard line, the quarterback hit Amani Toomer in stride for a 30-yard pass.
The Giants had to settle for a John Carney field goal, but the points put them in position to strike when replacement long snapper James Harrison sailed the ball over his punter's head. The victory sets up an NFC East showdown in the Meadowlands with the 5-3 Cowboys. The Giants are 6-1, and a win over the Cowboys would put them in great position at the midway point.
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