The Super Bowl Champions come to town today, and the Steelers had better be ready.
When teams are playing the defending world champs they to elevate their level of play –at the end of the 2006 season Steelers Digest’s Bob Labriolia chronicled how many of the key stars of opposing clubs had their best games of the season against the Steelers.
If you mentioned that to Mike Tomlin, his retort would most certainly be “You know, all of that stuff is great for the fans, but the simple fact is that we should be excited to play simply because there is a football game being played.”
Fair enough. That’s exactly the attitude that you want to hear out of your coach.
But the Steelers need to bring their top game, because the Giants bring a plethora of weapons to the field on both sides of the ball, and the Steelers have had their share of off-the field distractions.
The Giants pass rush, pass protection, running game, and star quarterbacking of Eli Manning are well documented, and there is no need to recount that in great detail here.
It’s (Almost) All About the Pass Rush
Suffice the Giants have been terrorizing quarterbacks with only a four man rush, and protecting Ben has been an issue for the Steelers all year.
Ben has shown he can take a pounding and, it shudders me to say this, but sometimes it almost seems like he thrives on it. (Just think, Cincinnati barely touched him, but his trip the Queen city was hardly his best game.)
On the flip side, Eli Manning has not been sacked much all year. But, as Cleveland has shown, if you get to Eli, you give yourself a shot at winning the game.
The Giants offensive line deserves credit for keeping Eli clean, but they yet to face off against the tandem of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodely.
All things considered equal, this game will be probably decided by who can rush the passer more effectively.
Why probably? Well, last year the team’s rushing defense fell apart with the loss of Aaron Smith. Smith has not practiced all week due to a personal issue, and will likely not play.
If New York is able to run the ball effectively, it will be a long afternoon for the Steelers.
Distractions Yes, Disruptions….?
During the week it seemed like an article on disruptions was going to find its way onto Steel Curtain Rising…. And that was before Santonio Holmes got busted.
- Prior to the Bengals game all of the talk focused on the numerous fines that the NFL has levied against the Steelers, many for hits that were not penalized.
- Such talk only increased in the wake Hines Wards, legal, but literally jaw breaking hit in Cincinnati.
- The NFL saw it necessary to dispatch a league executive to the Steelers South Side training complex to “explain” league policy.
- …And then Terrell Suggs went on record saying that the Baltimore Ravens had put out bounties on Hines Ward and Rashard Mendenhall.
What Effect Did This Have?
Its impossible to say, but the fact that Hines Ward felt compelled to call a Pittsburgh radio station to defend himself reveals that this is something that players of focusing on.
And of course, the week’s events were topped off with Santonio Holmes being charged with marijuana possession, and his subsequently being listed inactive for the game.
Steelers Digest’s Bob Labriola began the week with his weekly column titled “Time To Find Out What the Steelers Have…”
- He’s right, but he was only talking about the X’s and O’s.
Mike Tomlin has said that distractions come with success, and that the ability to deal with distractions separates the good teams from the great ones. In other words, distractions are unavoidable.
Tomlin is right.
Today’s game against the Giants will reveal how well Tomlin is able to keep distractions from becoming disruptions.
If he succeeds then the Steelers will have a chance at mastering the pass rush, on both sides of the ball, which gives them an excellent shot at defeating the defending Super Bowl Champions.