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Eye on the Steelers: Breaking Down the Matchup

eye-steelers-12116.jpg's Michael Eisen scouts the opposing offense, defense, and special teams:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will begin their challenging five-game stretch run late Sunday afternoon when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field. The Steelers have won their last two games after a four-game losing streak and are tied with Baltimore for first place in the AFC North with a 6-5 record.


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The Giants enter with a six-game winning streak and an 8-3 record. The visiting team has won the last three games in the series dating back 12 years – Pittsburgh in 2004 and 2012, the Giants in 2008. The Giants lead the series, 44-29-3.

What is the Steelers' biggest strength?

Their version of the Big 3 – quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown – are as lethal as any NFL trio. Roethlisberger hurt his knee vs. Miami on Oct. 16, the first game of the losing streak, missed a game, and was not at full strength the next two weeks. But he's hitting his stride, and so is the offense. Since Week 4 (when Bell made his 2016 debut), Bell and Brown have combined for 53% of the team's offensive touches, the league's highest total. They're going to get the ball; the Giants must limit their effectiveness when they do.

What player is key to the Steelers' offense?

That would be Roethlisberger, who, like Eli Manning, is a two-time Super Bowl-winning, 13-year veteran. He makes the offense go with his accuracy on passes down the field, ability to improvise and make plays off-schedule, arm strength and leadership. The Steelers' offense is markedly less effective when he is sidelined.

What is the strength of the Steelers' offense?

Pittsburgh has the ability to hurt an opponent in multiple ways because they have three of the league's most dynamic skill players. Roethlisberger has thrown 23 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions. Bell leads all NFL running backs with 57 receptions, despite missing the first three games while serving an NFL suspension.

He's had at least four catches in all eight games in which he's played. Bell has also rushed for 146 and 120 yards the last two weeks. Brown is smooth and explosive, and leads the NFL with 82 receptions. He is the second-most targeted receiver in football with 120. The Steelers also have two very fast receivers who play with Brown in Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates.

Which player is key to the Steelers' defense?

Actually, there are two, inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons (whose 96 consecutive starts are the most among active linebackers) and Ryan Shazier. Both of them are fast and seldom leave the field. They are 1-2 on the team in tackles (Timmons with 82, 57 solo, and Shazier with 53, 31 solo), and each has 1.5 sacks.

What is the strength of the Steelers' defense?

Its ability to lock down an opponent in the red zone, particularly on third down. Getting close to the goal line guarantees nothing for Pittsburgh's opponents. The Steelers have allowed only 15 touchdowns on 36 trips inside their 20-yard line, a league-leading 41.7%. Their foes have kicked 14 field goals for an 80.6 scoring percentage, which is third in the NFL. Seven times the Steelers' opponents advanced to the red zone and were turned away without a point. One reason: the opposition is converting only 14.3% of its third-down conversion attempts inside the 20.

Which player is key to the Steelers' special teams?

It's Brown – if he can get his hands on a punt or two. He's returned only 10 this season, for a 10.7-yard average that would be tied for seventh in the league if he had enough runbacks to be listed in the weekly statistics. Brown has four career punt return touchdowns – and another on a kickoff return.

Based on the scouting report, the Giants must do this one thing to win:

Limit the damage done by Bell and Brown. Bell had 63 touches (51 rushing attempts) and accounted for 243 yards in five days in victories against Cleveland and Indianapolis. In addition to his NFL-best 82 catches, Brown is tied for the league lead with 10 touchdown receptions, and is third with 998 yards. The Giants cannot let them run wild.

Statistics you should know:

  1. Roethlisberger has thrown 15 touchdown passes and two interceptions at home this season.
  1. The Steelers have scored 66 points in the final two minutes of either half, the NFL's second-highest total behind Detroit.
  1. Inside the Pittsburgh 30-yard line, opponents are completing only 49.4% of their passes.
  1. Through 11 games, the Steelers have allowed only nine points on their opponents' first possessions.

A look at the expected starters for the Giants' Week 13 opponent

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