Giants defense gets set for Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The quarterback is a two-time Super Bowl winner and four-time Pro Bowler who has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just two interceptions at home this season.
The running back has played in a Pro Bowl and leads all NFL players at his position with 57 receptions – despite missing the first three games while serving an NFL suspension.
The wide receiver is a four-time Pro Bowler who leads the NFL with 82 catches and is tied at the top with 10 touchdowns. He also has four career touchdowns returning punts, his other duty.
Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are the Pittsburgh Steelers' Big 3. If the Giants are going to defeat the Steelers Sunday afternoon in Heinz Field, they must find a way to limit the production of those three stars.
"(We are) playing one of the premier offenses in the league," Giants coach Ben McAdoo said. "Ben looks like he's back to full strength (since missing a game with a knee injury). They have a wealth of playmakers around them - Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, (center) Maurkice Pouncey, (guard) David DeCastro, they're among the best in the league at their positions."
"Good luck picking you poison," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "They have skill all over the place. You try to take one thing away and they will open up a hole somewhere else. But they have been good for a long time. The quarterback makes it all go and when you have a skill guy like Antonio Brown outside and a back like Bell that can do the things that he can do inside, it is going to make it difficult for our guys."
Roethlisberger was selected along with Eli Manning in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He quarterbacked the Steelers to victories in Super Bowls XL and XLIII. Roethlisberger has an exceptionally strong arm, he excels at improvisation, and he's been hot, throwing six touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last three games.
"I've been watching that since I was a kid," safety Landon Collins said of Roethlisberger's ability to avoid rushing defenders. "I was always saying, 'How do you miss a sack on him?' Well, he's really strong and big. He's tough. If he keeps that arm loose like he always does, he always hits his guys no matter what. You could be on his ankle and he could still make a throw out of the pocket down field. Just his arm strength and ability to keep his eyes downfield even though he's under attack."
"What people don't understand is that it's tough to affect Big Ben when you do hit him," defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. "As a defense and a unit, we have to get there with at least two or three guys on him. The same thing with Bell. I'm sure the back end is going to do a nice job of covering AB. We have a nice game plan and I think everyone is going to be ready."
Bell and Brown have combined for an NFL-high 53 percent of the Steelers' touches since Bell debuted on Oct. 2 against Kansas City. The fourth-year back already has 699 rushing yards - including 266 in the last two games - and is averaging more than seven catches a game.
"He's a very talented player," McAdoo said. "He's a big back with receiver-type skills. He has good vision and runs with patience. In two-minute, he's a magnet for the ball. He does a good job getting the chains moving there and keeps them in favorable down and distances. He's one of the best in the league at that position."
"He's a great player," defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. "Very patient runner. He'll challenge our gap integrity on defense. Guys that think they can make the play, how patient he is, he'll expose another gap. We just have to be patient as well."
And then there's Brown, who joins Odell Beckham, Jr. in any discussion of the NFL's very best receivers. Pittsburgh quarterbacks have thrown 120 passes to him, the second-highest figure in the NFL (Tampa Bay's Mike Evans has been targeted 132 times). In addition to leading the league in catches, Brown is third with 998 yards.
"He's a good receiver," said cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who will likely shadow Brown for much of the game. "He's dynamic and he's playmaker. That's Big Ben's main guy and we've got to control him."
Asked if Brown is similar to any other receiver he's covered, Jenkins said, "More like Odell. He's explosive and he's got different releases off the line. I think he's great with his hands and adjusting to the ball. We all have to be aware of what's going on and we know they like to give him the ball a lot."
"He's a great athlete," Collins said. "He's going to do his thing. You can stop him or try to stop him, but there are some guys you just can't stop. You try and contain him and do the best at that."
The Giants must find a way to prevent the Big 3 from having big-time performances.
"Everybody just has to do their job is what it comes down to," Spagnuolo said. "Hopefully, we will have enough things to change it up to take away what they do really well. Ben is good enough that he is going to figure out what you are taking away and then go use his other tools, so it will be that kind of game all day long. We are going to need a couple of breaks here and there and need some turnovers and our guys need to play fast and relentless. And hopefully something good happens."