Steelers Nation, do you recognize this group? I’ve seen great defense played from Pittsburgh teams before, but not from this collection of players. The stars for the Steelers versus the New York Giants were defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s guys.
The defense started the scoring for the team known for its offensive fire power. They drew several holding calls, including one on the ageless wonder James Harrison in the end zone on the Giants second offensive possession that caused the safety that put the Steelers on the board first at 2-0.
After Pittsburgh went up 5-0 on newly acquired kicker Randy Bullock first field goal in place of the injured Chris Boswell, the defense looked in trouble as Eli Manning marched his team down the field inside the red zone on a 10 play 62 yard drive before Lawrence Timmons intercepted Manning at the Steelers 3-yard line, that prevented what looked to be a sure touchdown for Larry Donnell and a New York lead, which he returned to the Giants 40-yard line.
Not only did the turnover flip field position and steal the momentum New York had built, it eventually led to a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown for his 11th of the season, and an 11-0 lead.
The Pittsburgh D kept the pressure on from there. On the day, the Giants gained 234 total yards, 52 of those came in garbage time when the game was no longer in doubt. Odell Beckham Junior got his 100 yards on 10 catches, but was severely frustrated all afternoon, and even drew a pass interference penalty that pushed the G-Men offense back that was followed by the safety.
Manning was sacked twice for a loss of 17 yards and hit 3 other times. Most importantly the Giants were held to 4-11 on 3rd down, and 0-3 on 4th down, one that led to an interception by rookie safety Sean Davis. The defensive was getting off the field and giving the ball to that offense that nobody wants to face.
Speaking of offense, coordinator Todd Haley did what he’s been doing for the past month, ringing the Bell.
Coming into Sunday, Le’Veon Bell averaged a NFL best 142.0 yards from scrimmage per game. Versus the Giants, he ran for 118 on 29 carries, his third consecutive game over the century mark and the 1st 100-yard rushing game versus the Giants since week 16 of 2015 to Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. Bell also had 64 receiving yards on 6 catches.
I’m convinced Le’Veon Bell is the most lethal offensive weapon in the NFL. I don’t care what name you shout out. Ezekiel Elliott? Nope. Tom Brady? Nope. Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Junior, Antonio Brown, Rob Gonkowski? Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
If he hadn’t missed the first three games of this season due to suspension, he’d be the leader in the MVP race. His numbers would be historical, and I doubt the Steelers would have as many losses as they do.
His playmaking ability allows the Steelers offense to play ball control and win the time of possession battle, and keep that often struggling defense on the sideline. Pittsburgh won the time of possession battle 34:08 to 25:52. It’s no coincidence the Steelers D has been playing lights out at the same time Bell has been touching the ball 25 to 30+ times per game. Old school football can still win in this new school pass happy League.
The x-factor in this game I wasn’t expecting was tight end LaDarius Green. Now I see what the anticipation and hype was about in regards to his return from an ankle injury that kept him out the first 8 games of the season. I must admit, I’m a fan of 2nd-year tight end Jesse James. I think he’s a more athletic Heath Miller. So I don’t have the words to explain how annoyed I was that general manager Kevin Colbert spent money on a tight end that should’ve been used to bolster the defense.
But after the last two games against the Indianapolis Colts and the Giants, his play is a perfect example of why I’m not a GM. 6 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown Sunday, 2 catches for 67 yards on Thanksgiving night against the Colts. He appears to be the security blanket Roethlisberger was missing during that four game losing streak when he was blitzed mercilessly.
For now Pittsburgh seems to have finally found the formula to get W’s, and just in time as they’re entering the most crucial part of the season.
Next up, at the 6-6 Buffalo Bills next Sunday in Orchard Park. Kickoff is set for 1 o’clock.
- With the win, Mike Tomlin joins George Allen, Vince Lombardi and John Madden of 10+ seasons and no losing seasons.
- The 22-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown in the second quarter extended #7’s steak of at least 1 TD pass in 43 straight home games. It’s the 3rd-longest streak in NFL history, and the longest active streak. Also with that touchdown connection, Roethlisberger & Brown tied Terry Bradshaw & Lynn Swann for the most QB-WR TD connections in Steelers History.
- The Steelers are 7-1 when scoring 24+ points, 0-4 when scoring less than that.