Giants’ banged-up defense prepares for Big Ben

Roethlisberger is at his best when he is outside of the pocket.

The Giants were able to get back to some semblance of normalcy on Thursday, despite the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy weighing heavily on their hearts and minds. At the top of their list of football concerns was how their injury-riddled defense can slow down Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  

Big Blue’s defense has been a relative jigsaw puzzle all season. They got some good news on Thursday when safeties Antrel Rolle (concussion) and Kenny Phillips (knee) practiced, in hopes that the duo can bolster a secondary that has been under siege all season. Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo lit up the skies to the tune of 437 yards last week against the Giants. And while they picked him off four times, including twice by reserve safety Stevie Brown, the Giants were still susceptible to the big play.   

Roethlisberger’s army of receivers are just as talented as Dallas’, if not more, and are definitely faster, which makes the job that much more difficult for the Giants.    

“There is a level of concern because of the [receivers’] ability level and the quarterback’s accuracy,” Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin said. “Obviously, [Roethlisberger] has had a very, very good career. He has two Super Bowl championships. He’s a winner, [and] he currently has a 117 quarterback rating on third downs, so he’s playing very, very well.”   

Although the Steelers (4-3) insist they’re trying to find more balance within the offense under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the game plan still rests mostly on the big right arm of Roethlisberger. While it may be out of necessity, due to the myriad of injuries at running back (Pittsburgh is on its third different starter), it’s still noteworthy to point out that Roethlisberger is throwing a whopping 38.2 times per game.  

Roethlisberger called Romo’s gaudy numbers “a little deceiving” because Dallas found themselves in a 23-0 first-half hole and had to forge their comeback through the air, but did note he thinks there is room for success against the Giants’ defense.

“People always make a big deal about [me] extending plays. I don’t go into a play with the intention of doing that. I think a lot of it is just my competitiveness and not wanting to go down,” Roethlisberger said. “I think it’s a double-edged sword sometimes [and] I’d like to think that it’s been better for us and not hurt us, but I know it hurt us in the sense that some of those sack numbers and things have been high in the past years. … But that’s just the way I play the game and I can’t really change that too much.”   

Coughlin marveled at Roethlisberger’s field awareness and competitiveness, but at the same time fretted over the daunting task his defense has in trying to bring down the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder.   

“He does extend the play, [but] as I see it, there haven’t been as many this year. But he definitely has that ability,” said Coughlin. “Of course, over the years, he’s thrown the ball in all kinds of positions with all kinds of people draped all over him. It’s a great challenge [because] he’s still done very well with that when needed.”   

Big Blue notes
» A number of Giants’ players listed on the initial injury report made their way back to the practice field on Thursday. Safety Antrel Rolle (concussion) was cleared to work, albeit limited. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) also worked out on a limited basis. Others who participated on a limited basis included center David Baas (ankle/elbow), linebacker Keith Rivers (calf) and safety Kenny Phillips (knee). 

» Other walking wounded weren’t as fortunate, as linebackers Chase Blackburn (hamstring) and Jacquian Williams (knee), and tight end Bear Pascoe (ankle) all sat out practice.
Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (quadriceps) and wideout Victor Cruz (calf) were able to fully participate in practice. 

» Phillips said whatever role the coaches have for him, he’ll take it, and he won’t be rocking the boat — even if that means he may have lost his starting spot to the red-hot Brown: “He did what he was supposed to do. He took advantage of an opportunity. It’s rare that a guy loses his position to an injury, but it’s possible with the way he’s playing. I’m not worried about it. Whatever role they give me, I’ll take it. If I have to backup my backup, I’ll do it.”

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