Three keys for the Steelers-Giants game

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

(Graphic made by Ethan McCoy)

The Steelers' front seven needs to get after "Danny Dimes"

The biggest factor of the Steelers-Giants game on Monday night will be whether the Giants' offensive line can protect second-year quarterback Daniel Jones from the Steelers' pass rush. New York will start two new tackles in rookie Andrew Thomas and journeyman Cameron Fleming; Thomas is at left tackle and will be matched up with Bud Dupree, while Fleming is on the right side and will be given the daunting task of blocking 2019 first-team All-Pro T.J. Watt. Thomas should be a solid left tackle in the future but in his first NFL game, Dupree should have the upper hand. The New York media hasn't been overly thrilled with Fleming, and he pretty much won the right tackle starting spot by default. Watt should have a monster game and be breathing down Jones' neck all night, which hopefully will lead to some forced fumbles, and Jones is known to have fumblitis. Watt and Dupree as a duo had a combined 26 sacks last year and forced 12 fumbles, while Jones led the league in fumbles last year with 18, which included 11 fumbles lost. The Steelers led the league last year in sacks (54) and takeaways (38), with 18 of those turnovers being forced fumbles, which led the league. Jones could be in for a long night if Watt and Dupree create havoc from the outside and Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt collapse the pocket from the inside. Along with getting after Jones, the Steelers need to at least contain superstar running back Saquon Barkley, as he should be able to make plays but the Steelers just can't let him break off those long game-changing runs. If Pittsburgh can smash the run and make the Giants' offense one-dimensional, look out "Danny Dimes."

Big Ben returns and should have his way with a shaky Giants' secondary

Ben Roethlisberger will make his first start on Monday night since having surgery on his right elbow that sidelined him all but six quarters in 2019. He'll face a Giants' secondary that allowed 264.1 yards passing in 2019, which ranked 28th in the league. The Giants signed cornerback James Bradberry to a three-year, $45 million deal this offseason and is their No. 1 cornerback. But they have a major question mark on who will be their starter opposite of Bradberry. Corey Ballentine out of Division II Washburn University is expected to be the Giants' No. 2 cornerback, which should be a favorable matchup for Diontae Johnson and James Washington with Bradberry most likely given the responsibility to defend JuJu Smith-Schuster. Johnson had a very promising rookie campaign leading all rookies in receptions with 59, along with 680 yards receiving and five touchdowns, and that production came with backup quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges under center. Just imagine what he can do this year with a healthy Roethlisberger throwing passes to him. Smith-Schuster should also benefit with Roethlisberger coming back after having a down year in production that was riddled with injuries and return to his 2018-like self when he had 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. While it is the first game of the season and Roethlisberger didn't have any preseason games to get acclimated with his wide receivers, the Giants lack continuity and experience in the secondary. Roethlisberger, who is in his 17th season in the league, should find a way to expose the Giants' secondary, especially Ballentine who has just two career starts.

The Steelers' offensive line must keep Ben upright

It will be a day short of a year on Monday night when Roethlisberger makes his first appearance in a game since suffering his elbow injury against the Seahawks in Week 2 of the 2019 season. Ben said that he will be "shaking like a leaf" on Monday night with the anticipation of his first game back. There could possibly be some rust with Roethlisberger in the beginning, but the offensive line, which will be starting three new starters from 2019; Matt Feiler at left guard, Zach Banner at right tackle and Stefen Wisneiswski at right guard in place of David DeCastro who has been ruled out with a knee injury, needs to make sure Roethlisberger is not under duress. If Roethlisberger is afforded a consistent clean pocket, he will surely be able to find open receivers downfield against a Giants' secondary that has some holes. In addition to the offensive line needing to prevent their quarterback from taking hits and sacks, they need to dominate the line of scrimmage and establish a run game, it's important for the Steelers to have a balanced attack. The Giants have a stout front with Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams, and despite being dreadful across the board on defense last year, New York finished fourth in yards per carry allowed in run defense. Dexter Lawrence is a large human being with a frame of 6-foot-4, 342 pounds and he can move as well. Banner will see a lot of Lawrence, which will be a good test for him in his first career start. Banner had this to say last week in regards to protecting Roethlisberger: "You are talking about protecting one of the most important people in the city of Pittsburgh." Banner couldn't have stated that any better. That protection for the franchise quarterback must start on Monday night.

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