Giants vs. Steelers: 3 things to watch

Solving Dick LeBeau's complicated 3-4 defense will be key for the Giants.

The Giants have to somehow change their attention from Hurricane Sandy to a tough Steelers team this Sunday. Few teams have the mental toughness to do that, but Tom Coughlin’s bunch is one of them. No doubt they’ll be playing with the added emotion of an entire city behind them.

What to watch for …

1. Can the Giants corral Big Ben?

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is one of the toughest players to sack, mainly because at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he has freakish strength. But he’s also the best in the league at extending plays with his feet and using his legendary pump-fake. The Giants have struggled for most of the year at getting to the quarterback. They’ve tallied 21 sacks through eight games, but seven of those came in the last two weeks. If Big Blue can’t get to Big Ben, it could make for a long day for the home team.       

2. Footballs will be filling the sky

Neither Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning (36.65 attempts per game) nor Roethlisberger (38.2 attempts per game) are shy about putting up attempts, so look for the two to be key influences on the outcome of the game. This is especially true for Roethlisberger going against a Giants’ secondary that has been lit up on occasion this season. Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo threw for a jaw-dropping 437 yards last week against a secondary that has struggled with injuries. Starting corners Prince Amukamara and Corey Webster haven’t looked all that good this season, and the safeties — save for the red-hot Stevie Brown — haven’t been much better and are now battling injuries (Antrel Rolle, concussion and Kenny Phillips, knee).
    
3. Can the Giants’ struggling red-zone offense penetrate the 3-4 defense?

Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is basically the founding father of today’s exotic zone-blitz scheme. And while the Giants have faced the 3-4 front five times (including twice against the Cowboys), they haven’t seen anything like the looks the Steelers show. Pittsburgh is bound to blitz from any angle within the linebacker and secondary groups, especially in the red zone where space is limited and receivers can’t easily adjust their routes. Manning has seen lots of coverages in his career, but he rarely faces the Steelers’ defense — one that mixes man and zone coverages off its blitzing scheme better than anyone. He’ll need to be on the same wavelength as his wideouts if they’re to shake their red-zone doldrums and make Pittsburgh pay for their aggressiveness.

Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.



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