Some have called this the game of the year, I’m not sure why, but if some in the media want to hype it that way, go for it, though I doubt if the teams will bite. I’m looking at it as more of a game of eeriness, shall we say. Perhaps that’s good though, given it’s a home game at Heinz Field so close to Halloween. No black and orange here though, just black and gold … oh and the white, blue and red of that other team. You know the team I’m talking about, the one that will have the bulls eye on their back all season long because everyone wants to beat last years Superbowl champions.
I’m calling it kind of spooky myself. No, there won’t be any ghosts or goblins, after all, the game will be a day game, however, some events are just a little uncanny to be just, well, to have just happened. Flashback to 2004 with me for a moment.
Preseason draft, two young first round draft picks, quarterbacks of course. One, the first one or the number 1, the other drafted at number 11. Okay, even that may be a stretch at numerology. The one would start off as the hope of the franchise, the other proved to be the pride of the franchise, that year.
Still with me in 2004? Good, because that was the last time the Steelers hosted the Superbowl champions in Heinz Field. Guess what, it was on October 31st, 2004 when the Patriots were defeated at Heinz Field by the Steelers. That Superbowl team was met with a stifling defense, a solid running game and a quarterback who didn’t throw away the game. Later that year, they would also face the loser of the Superbowl. Okay, this is as far as I want to take this coincidence, because we know what happened at the end of that year.
Oh yeah, one more thing, last time these two teams met, these two quarterbacks played each other, 2004. Steelers won that game too.
Now fast forward to October 26, 2008. Two quarterbacks from the same draft class will be meeting for the first time on the field since their draft year. One will be the Superbowl champions, the other will be one of the recipient of the Superbowl ring from a few years before.
One other canny thing here. On October 26, 2008, the two teams that are meeting are 5-1, have each registered their only loss to their opponents division rivals.
Okay, so it’s easy to draw coincidences in this game and make parallel universes appear when there really isn’t any. However, as I mentioned in the beginning, some are touting this the game of the year. I can understand why.
Sunday’s Steelers game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field could very well turn into the battle that the hype may allude it to be. The hype, two first round draft choices of 2004, two quarterbacks who’ve grown into their own. Each having their own Superbowl ring.
Not hype. Each team having a balanced offense, with a running back tandem that can burn defenses. For the Giants, Brandon Jacobs could be compared to…well…Jerome Bettis. A beast on the field that could run over defenders. Add to that the presence of Derrick Ward. Combined, both backs have accumulated a total of 853 yds in six games. Add to that Eli Manning’s arm and the wide receiving talents of Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith and Amani Toomer and this offense has the potential to be lethal. That’s why they’re 5 and 1 and sitting on top of their division and their conference.
However, the Steelers offense is no slouch either, especially since showing it’s depth with the loss of Willie Parker for several games and Rashard Mendenhall for the season. In fact, Mewelde Moore was able to fill in quite nicely having accumulated 219 yds in his first two starts. With the possibility of Parker returning to the game on Sunday, we could see a switch off of the two backs against the Giants 4-3 defense. Add to that the passing attack of Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington (not to mention tight end Heath Miller) and the Steelers offense can be just as potent.
Still not hype. Giants 4-3 defense and the Steelers 3-4 defense. Steelers defense have only allowed a total of 418 yds on the ground, Giants, 507. Steelers lead in sacks 25 to 21 and have allowed fewer passing yards 952 to the Giants 1144.
Here I’m liking the Steelers defense to match up well against the Giants offense. However, this will be the first real test of the Pittsburgh oline since the Philadelphia Eagles game, especially with Justin Tuck and Fred Robbins on the Giants defense.
What I’m also liking is that, with the exception of the Redskins, the Giants oline hasn’t really been truly tested this year in the protecting against the constant pressure of the blitz and a 3-4 defense. When the Browns played the Giants, there were 3 interceptions and 1 sack, and the Giants loss that game.
Given that this is at home, the Steelers coming in with the momentum, a defense that can force turnovers and leads the league in sacks. I’m liking the Steelers chances, but it will be close and it will be defensive.