Giants change focus from Sandy to Steelers

Eli Manning.
ALEX TRAUTWIG/GETTY IMAGES

The Giants’ players and coaches are unlike anyone else who’s had to deal with the tragic events and inconveniences caused by Hurricane Sandy. But for them, they must find a way to put aside those distractions and focus on the visiting Steelers.   

While family members, handlers and entourages are dealing with the every day tasks and recovery, the players must get back to work and try to get their minds on less important subjects like the Steelers’ blitz-happy defense, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.   

Some guys, like Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning, however, said preparing for the game may actually be a needed distraction.   

“I think we’ve had a couple of days to be with our families and kind of deal with the situation and it’s not easy. [But] now the focus is obviously getting ready to play a football game, so it’s good to get everybody back in here, get the team together and understand we’ve got to get ready to play a game,” Manning said, adding he’s well aware of the sensitive nature of talking about moving on with a game. “Obviously, there’s still a lot of issues and no power and the home life is different and has its challenges, but I think once you get into the facility, and get here, start working out and get around the teammates [that] it will be a good little break to kind of get away from that. … Once you get here everything feels pretty normal.”   

That normalcy Manning and Co. crave is due to their head coach trying to get guys acclimated quickly. Manning said he’s thankful for having Tom Coughlin leading the way.   

“I think he understands that everybody has got things going on, and knowing we’ve got to get some things settled and get our families settled in and get them kind of situated,” Manning said of Coughlin. “But then we know we’ve got to come in and guys know we’ve got to get our work done [because] we’ve still got a game to play.  

“So, we’ve got to get our preparation, have a great practice, great focus and [Coughlin will] get us ready to play the game.”    

Preparing for the Steelers, particularly their offense, presents challenges for the Giants (6-2) that are anything but normal. They also have a franchise quarterback who was selected in the famed 2004 draft, who has two Super Bowl rings, and is as clutch as they come.    

Roethlisberger (1,987 yards passing, 14 touchdowns, three interceptions, 101.4 rating) is having a career year and is about as dangerous as any quarterback the Giants’ defense will face all season. Once known as the ultimate freelance, sandlot quarterback, Roethlisberger has shown great pocket awareness and a quicker than usual release, making the task of getting to the burly 6-foot-5, 250-pounder even tougher.  

Coughlin noted Roethlisberger’s supreme season, adding that the passer’s elite and speedy receiving corps, the quarterback’s maturity in the pocket and the refurbished offensive line, are a scary combination.        

It’s almost a pick-your-poison scenario, acknowledged Coughlin.   

“They have a large offensive line, a group of running backs who seem to replace one another when injures take their toll — with [Jonathan] Dwyer being the most recent runner — and the receiving corps is outstanding,” Coughlin said. “They have tremendous speed on the outside, [and] a go-to tight end in [Heath] Miller who provides Ben with a reliable source. … Plus, Roethlisberger has the ability to extend plays, which he’s done throughout his career.   

“Much has been said about the way in which they’ve directed and changed their offense [under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley], but he’s been well protected, not been hit nearly as much, nor is he forcing anything. He’s distributing the ball very well to any number of receivers.”   

Coughlin said this will be a tough test because the Steelers (4-3) have already had a taste of the NFC East, having beaten the Eagles in Week 5 and the Redskins last week.   

He added that while Pittsburgh plays the 3-4 defense, and the Giants have already faced that exotic defense five different times (including the Cowboys twice), the Steelers’ version isn’t anything like they’ve seen before.    

“They’re all different,” he said of 3-4 defenses. “You can categorize them that way, but each team is a different team in how they present themselves, [especially] as soon as it becomes third down. … Pittsburgh is something totally different as well.”  

The coach added he’s already warned the team that film study, although compromised by Mother Nature, is at a premium this week, and there will be no excuses on Sunday.    

“Nothing is pushed back in the NFL. Everything is on schedule. We’ve made some adjustments to try to accommodate and anticipate some issues that we might have, [but] we’ve been hard at it and the coaches have been hard at it,” said Coughlin. “I don’t see any issue which has stopped us from sticking with our normal routine, if you will. … That’s a good football team coming in. They are 11th in the league on offense, [and] they are second on defense. They’re traditionally a tremendous, powerful football team — very physical football team. We have to be ready.”  

Big Blue notes
 
» The Giants’ initial injury list included center David Baas (ankle), defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (quadriceps), linebackers Chase Blackburn (hamstring), Keith Rivers (calf) and Jacquian Williams (knee), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), wideout Victor Cruz (calf), tight end Bear Pascoe (ankle) and safeties Kenny Phillips (knee) and Antrel Rolle (concussion).

Cruz and Phillips worked out on Wednesday.     

» Coughlin said of those listed Rolle, Bradshaw and Pascoe would not work. Rolle, Coughlin noted, still has to “go through the routine, the process, [and] we’re hopeful and confident that he will pass” the concussion baseline tests.
  
» Without Pascoe, and Travis Beckum (knee/PUP) still working his way back into the mix, Coughlin said rookie Adrien Robinson is “going to have to get after it this week.”   

» Should Blackburn not recover, Coughlin is confident that second-year player Mark Herzlich can handle the middle linebacker load, although it’s still unclear who would make the defensive calls. Coughlin said while Herzlich “has obviously studied and been in the same room with Chase, and knows the mannerisms,” it “doesn’t necessarily mean” that Herzlich would be in charge of lining up the defense. That could be left to weakside linebacker Michael Boley, “who has done it quite extensively. … So, I don’t think that necessarily has to fall to just [one player].”

Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.



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