Giants Turn In Mixed Bag Against The Steel Curtain
The first preseason game of the year is usually such a tease. The game is the same, the uniforms are the same and the stadiums are the same (albeit half-filled, instead of bursting with raucous electricity), but the starters are in the game for no more than a quarter, at the most. Beyond that, it's a whole lot of players whom you've heard of but never seen before, and players whom you've seen before but never heard of. Some of these "unknowns" are more interesting than others (for various reasons), but when you get down to it, the second half of a preseason game is like watching a Madden simulation game when you're in year 16 of franchise mode.
As much of a tease as Saturday night's preseason opener at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh was, there was a lot of information to be gleaned from watching the Giants' rookies and new offseason additions in action for the first time. The game started about as well as it could have for the Giants defense on Pittsburgh's opening drive. After newcomer Cullen Jenkins wrapped up Ben Roethlisberger on third down and notched the Giants' first sack of the preseason, the Steelers' ensuing punt was blocked by none other than rookie DE Damontre Moore, who would end up having himself a great night.
All last season, the Giants had difficulty punching it in the end zone from inside the opponent's 10-yard line, and those troubles continued on the team's first offensive possession on Saturday night. The Giants went three-and-out from the Pittsburgh five-yard line after two incomplete passes from Eli Manning and Josh Brown booted a short field goal to put New York on the board first.
The defense had a mostly successful night, limiting the Steelers offense to only six points and 218 yards of total offense, but the unit got off to a slow start in stopping the Pittsburgh running game — something that Giants fans were watching closely. LaRod Stephens-Howling rushed for 40 yards on seven carries in his limited action during the first quarter, and a lot of those yards were easy yards — a discouraging sign for anyone hoping to see a new-and-improved run defense. However, the defense tightened up as the game went on and there were several impressive performances from younger guys like Moore and Tyler Sash.
Manning's final offensive series was his best one. The Giants went 80 yards in just over three minutes, and the drive was capped by a play Giants fans hope they see a lot more of this season: a 57-yard touchdown strike from Manning to Victor Cruz. The pass from Manning wasn't a picture-perfect one — it appeared to wobble a bit en route — but it was placed right where Cruz needed it and he did the rest of the work, eluding several tackles and a diving attempt by Troy Polamalu to reach the end zone, where he commenced the first official salsa dance of 2013.
With a 10-3 lead to start the second quarter, most of the starters were gone, but there were still some great plays made by players hoping to make a lasting impression. As previously mentioned, Moore had a great game, putting consistent pressure on the carousel of Steeler quarterbacks that passed through. Tyler Sash also had a number of standout moments, including a play early in the second half when he sacked Pittsburgh QB Landry Jones in the end zone for a safety, giving the Giants a 15-6 lead. Moments later, he recovered a fumble as well.
- - A botched hand-off attempt early in the second quarter between David Carr and Andre Brown led to a lost fumble. The first person to talk to Brown on the sidelines after the miscue? David Wilson, who is no stranger to early-season fumbles.
- - Adewale Ojomo continued his preseason dominance, recording three tackles and 1.5 sacks.
- - The much-anticipated debut of Ryan Nassib was one he'd soon like to forget. A high snap in the fourth quarter that got away from him led to the only Steelers touchdown of the game. He was also sacked twice and completed only one pass in his quarter of work.
- - WR Kris Adams suffered a fractured lower leg, and S Antrel Rolle suffered a sprained ankle (however, the extent of the injury is not yet known).
- - New kicker Josh Brown missed a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter, which was not a promising sight for fans that expected more range from Brown — something that Lawrence Tynes struggled mightily with in his tenure with the team.