Thursday, October 23, 2008
An Indepth look at the Giants vs. Steelers matchups on paper
What happens when you have a blog comprised of mostly Steeler and Giant fans?
Well I don’t really know but things are a bit different here at SUS. Whether it be the ignoring Devo or wanting to slap White Boy in the face, things are getting testy and there is an uncommon uneasiness this week. Or maybe I just added the last line for dramatic effect.
Both teams slopped away wins last week in unspectacular fashion and will need far better efforts this week to expect a victory. Until the Cleveland game, the Giants defense looked great without teams having an answer for what they did. The answer turned out to be a good job by a top 5 O-line in the Browns. As a result, plays were there for the taking and holes were a plenty in the Giant defense. Luckily for the Giants, the Steelers don’t have the same talent as Cleveland along the trenches but their play has improved from the Philly debacle.
On a side note, The Great Ketchup Bottle is home to the Pitt Panthers as well. Pitt plays on Saturday. Rain is expected all weekend. What does that mean? SLOP FIELD. Good bye speed and hello plodding.
When the Steelers have the ball:
In the Trenches:
LT Max Starks vs. RDE Mathias Kiwanuka
Starks is a beast in the run game and should have no trouble moving Kiwanuka out of the way on running plays. Starks should also surprise this week in the pass game. Kiwanuka is a solid pass rusher but he's equipped with a speed rush as his primary weapon but the shitty turf of big ketchup bottle allows fleet footed defenders to be an extra step slower which plays into big Max’s game. Max for being a 6’7’’ inch guy, 350 lbs is about as soft as they come but I still think he handles Kiwi especially in the run game.
LG Chris Kemoeatu/C Justin Hartwig/RG Darnell Stapleton vs. LDT Fred Robbins/ RDT Barry Cofield
Robbins and Cofield are both underrated pass rushers with a penchant for not allowing a QB to step up into the pocket. Both are very good at getting penetration and forcing running plays to the outside. Once Hartwig becomes more comfortable with the blocking assignments I see this aspect of the Steelers line to be an upgrade but until then it’s learning on the job. I can expect a lot of stunts by the Giants and a ton of blitzes up the gut to take advantage of this situation and see how quick of a learner Hartwig is. On paper though, the inside of the Steelers can match up well against the Giants DTs. Kemo and the Stapler are both strong enough to anchor and allow Hartwig to seek and destroy lbs. It’s up to the O-line of the Steelers and Hartwig especially to know where the blitzers are coming from and to keep their heads on a swivel.
RT Willie the Colon vs. LDE Justin Tuck
Horrible matchup for the Steelers. Colon hasn’t looked horrendous since the Eagle game but he's far from a sure thing. Justin Tuck has shown an ability to hold the point in the run game. This will only spell doom for the Steelers as this allows the weakside backers to come in and smack Mewelde Moore whenever possible. On passing plays this will only get worse. The Colon is slow off the ball and lazy with his technique when you add in below average physical tools you have a shitty right offensive tackle. Also add an elite pass rushing talent with enough strength should mean a lot of tight ends/running backs helping out the Colon to avoid further embarrassment. Giants will likely counter by moving Tuck all over the field. This will be one of the many games within the game.
Steelers Passing Offense:
Big Ben still has that mentality of being a game manager in the Trent Dilfer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Roth can make all the throws. His problem is that like Favre and Elway he always is looking downfield and has that confidence to air it out. At times he tries to do too much and forces throws but make no mistake about it -- no matter how over matched his team is he can always hit the big play on you. Giants must follow the Eagles blue print and WRAP HIM UP.
The Giants corners are overall very physical but can be burnt deep. Santonio Holmes has yet to have a big game this year and will likely see the Giants’ Corey Webster for much of the day. Webster has continued the momentum from his playoff run and has shown to be a good NFL corner. Ward vs. Ross should be an interesting matchup. Ross can surely keep up with Ward as Ward has lost a step but he makes up for it with an uncanny ability to get open. Ward’s also been a big factor in blocking and is bound to smack one of the big blue defenders into next week. The Giants must be aware of this and at the same time, not try to knock out Hines Ward.
Nate “Clang” Washington has been huge the last three weeks for the Steelers by getting behind nickel corners and making BIG plays happen. Much to my surprise, he has even caught balls he’s supposed to catch! Clang isn’t anything special but he has some tremendous acceleration that allows him to steak by defenders. This is a big disadvantage for the Giants as I think neither Kevin Dockery or Sam Madison can cover him deep.
The Giants safeties are deep as a group but do have their weaknesses. Butler is liability in coverage and Johnson is talented but prone to the greenhorn screw up and double moves. Add in Sammy Knight who was slow 4 years ago and potential superstar Kenny Phillips in nickel and dime looks gives the Giants some options in defending the Steelers weapons. However, I fully expect Steelers TE, Heath Miller to beat both Pierce and Butler in the pass game and then get promptly ignored from the rest of the game. I see the Giants lack of overall speed at linebacker to serve as a problem when the Steelers swing it out the Mewelde Moore. The blessing in disguise in the injury to Willie Parker is that Bruce Arians is going to more draws and swing passes to the HB in the flats. Parker I doubt will play a significant role if he does play. Expect to witness the screen also. How the Steelers execute that is another story.
Steelers Running Game:
The running game of the Steelers is getting the job done through stretch plays, counters, draws and trickery but when the chips are down and they still need to get a 3rd and 1, they can’t get it. Willie Parker is a better runner than Moore but will likely again miss this game. The Steelers have Gary Russell and Dump Davenport to help give Moore a breather and to get short yardage. The Giants counter with not the most skilled linebackers in the league but adequate pluggers who can flow the football and make tackles but again if the Steelers can block the d-line and allow the backers to get picked up than the Giants will be in for a long day. I don’t think the Steelers will be able to run on the Giants straight ahead. They will need to take advantage of the Giants aggressiveness.
Over the last 3 games the Steelers have distributed the ball to their RBs more often, have relied on quick passes, and have gone no-huddle. This is the style of offense that our O was built for. The Steelers are n longer a power running team and need to pass the ball well and distribute the rock to win football games. I’m not telling Bruce Arians to ignore the run (ever)…. but this is a passing team. The no huddle could be big this week and getting these run stuffing linebackers in space should be the goal.
When the Giants have the ball:
The Giants can either look unstoppable or pathetically average. It’s somewhere in between but again isn’t that every team. Even through their inconsistencies they can do it all. Led by a team that has only allowed 6 sacks all season. The Giants will now go against a team that has sacked opposing QBs 25 times. Strength on a strength. However, both have not played the type of teams that are considered to be worthwhile. Ironically, I’d say the strength of the Giant’s O-line is their run blocking. That too is a strength of the Steelers defense. I love matchups like this. Something’s got to give.
LT David Diehl vs. RDE Brett Keisel/ ROLB James Harrison
By far the most important matchup in this. Harrison has dominated this year in all facets of the game and looks like a complete freak. By being only 5’ 11’ Harrison offers a matchup problem to most 6’3+ OTs and has the strength to walk them back consistently. He also has added some moves to his various swim and rip moves, Harrison will be a problem for Diehl in the pass game. Diehl vs. Keisel should be a good matchup with Diehl getting a ton of stalemates. Keisel returned last week and was basically unheard of. I expect him to come on this week. Regardless, Diehl is a hoss in the run game and the Steelers need to be ready.
LG Rich Seubert/C Shaun O’ Hara / RG Chris Snee vs. DT Casey Hampton/DT Chris Hoke
Casey Hampton should be back in the lineup on Sunday and if healthy should have no problem with O’Hara one on one. I expect Seubert or Snee to down block on him considerably or else Brandon Jacobs will have a tough time doing anything. When the Giants are looking to pass, I see the interior of the line holding up well against Keisel/Smith/Farrior/Timmons/Foote, etc. Eli should have room to step up into the pocket.
RG Chris Snee/RT Kareem McKenzie vs. LDE Aaron Smith/LOLB Lamar Woodley
When the Giants try to the run ball, The Smith/Snee matchup could be quite a battle. Aaron Smith has rebounded from injury and continues to play at a very high level with the ability to penetrate and force runners wide. Snee however is one of the league’s best guards and is nasty as they come. I expect more stalemates here and that can only help the Giants and Jacobs get to the second level. McKenzie vs. Smith can also be a war but I think Aaron get atleast hold the point better against an aging McKenzie. Woodley vs. McKenzie in the pass should also be a war. Woodley has surprised the league with 7.5 sacks already as a first year starter. McKenzie is veteran that knows a lot of tricks but Woodley has shown a good combination of speed and power. Should be interesting but I think McKenzie can show the youngster a move or two.
Gints Running game:
Yikes. There’s nothing like getting run on like a guy like Jacobs. No one in the league is as intimidating to tackle. The Steelers also have only 3 guys who outweigh him. YES!!! Giants do a great job in the running game with solid blocking from the O-line, Boss and Hedgecock. I expect to see some success for the Giants here against the normally stout Stiller run defense. In fact, I expect a healthy dose and rotation of Earth Wind and Fire in this especially if the Giants get the lead.
But it’s what makes their attack so potent. They get hats on hats and they sustain blocks and they beat the shit out of you. It’s very difficult to get Jacobs before he gets started. A lot of times, he’s long-striding through holes three yards into the line of scrimmage without getting touched. You’ve got a problem there. That’s what makes them a great offense. It’s not only him. (Derrick) Ward averages six or seven yards a carry and the other guy (Ahmad Bradshaw) averages about six yards as carry also. This football team averages 5.6 yards a carry. Granted the Steelers are the toughest run defense they have faced by far but it’s still a cause for concern. One positive is that the longest run the Steelers have allowed to this date is 15 yards. I fully expect one of Earth, Wind and Fire to break that but the Steelers can hold their own.
Giants Passing Offense:
Eli Manning has taken that next step. Is he an elite QB? Frankly this season there are no elite QBs anymore but I will say he is in the top 10 and arching towards the top 5. This is not to say he’s without the occasional brain farts and poor decisions –all qbs have that – but he is able to rise to the occasion and take that important next step to closing out other teams while not making the big turnover. Like all QBs he can be pressured into making bad decisions but he is extremely resilient. If the game is close, Eli might be the league’s best.
The Steelers are extremely banged up all around. Troy Polamalu is a game time decision and steady Bryant McFadden is out with a broken arm. I see Plaxico Burress taking on Ike Taylor in a one on one matchup. Burress should take it to Taylor here despite similar measurable. Taylor frequently plays off receivers and this is bad news when dealing with someone like Plax. Burress also isn't blazing fast and uses push-offs, elbows, whatever possible to get open. Ike has to played up in Burress’s face and smack him around. Won’t happen but I see Plax getting doubled. The problem with Plax is that he’s Eli’s go to guy and he gets 30% of passing looks. Eli can’t lock down on Plax. He needs to get his other weapons involved.
The other side will likely be Deshea Townsend vs. Amani Toomer. Both are veterans who don’t have a ton of speed but make up for it in being masters of the game. I give the advantage to Toomer here as Townsend has been gimpy recently but overall should be fairly even.
The 3rd matchup here is William Gay vs. Steve Smith. Big mismatch here as Gay has been solid in small doses but not nearly tested to handle the slot guy. Smith isn’t necessarily particularly fast but he is quick and runs crisp routes. He also gets open frequently. The Giants will continue to feed him the ball in the slot and that’s where Gay or Townsend will be. Gay is unproven but looks okay in pass defense so far this season. He hasn’t been called upon like this in his brief 22 game career though.
Kevin Boss doesn’t scare me unless Brandon Jacobs starts getting 7 yards a carry. Boss will likely be causing damage in the run game though so if Jacobs can get early success look for Boss to get his looks. James Farrior/Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons regardless can cover him and shut him down outside of that. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Timmons matched up on both Burress and Toomer as he was asked to cover both Chode Johnson and Piss Henry on multiple plays. He will be vital for the Steelers in passing defense and in watching the swing passes for Eli.
To make matters worse is when the Giants trot out Domenik Hixon and or Mario Manningham. The Steelers don’t have guys to stay with them unless you want to trust special teams gunner, Anthony Madison. Otherwise this could be a bad time for the Steeler secondary especially if Harrison or Woodley can’t get to Manning. If Polamalu can’t go than you are looking at the worst safety in football playing significant time in Tyrone Carter. He of the Look Ma David Garrard can juke me variety. I’d be way more comfortable if Anthony “Guarantee” Smith is back in the lineup.
The only thing stopping this offense from doing damage is Kevin Gilbride. He must use every weapon at his disposable. The Steelers defense is ripe for the picking especially with their patented cushions and deep zones.
New York Giants – 31
Pittsburgh Steelers – 20