Pittsburgh Steelers 26, New York Giants 16: Instant Reactions/Analysis
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ --The score will show that the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the New York Giants 26-16 during Monday night's matchup at MetLife Stadium, but an argument can certainly be made that it was the Giants who beat the Giants.
New York had three golden opportunities that, had they cashed in, might very well have meant a different outcome. They include recovering a muffed punt on the 3-yard line, which they failed to punch into the end zone; failing to finish a scoring drive that sputtered on the 4-yard line on a Daniel Jones interception, and failing to capitalize on Steelers kicker Chris Boswell's kickoff that went out of bounds.
The Giants also couldn't get a running game going, which didn't help their case, and their defensive secondary continues to be a concern.
Running back Saquon Barkley had his worst performance since his 13-carry, 1-yard rushing effort last year against the Jets, though it wasn't all his doing. Barkley finished with 15 carries for six yards (0.4 avg) after recording minus-3 yards on nine first-half carries. He had at least ten carries that went for negative yardage in total.
Barkley also had an awful whiff on a fourth-quarter sack by Mike Hilton against Daniel Jones. Barkley continues to struggle with picking up blitzers, just as he did his first two seasons in the league.
Tight end Evan Engram, who was supposed to thrive in this offense, was a non-factor for the Giants. He failed to catch any of his first-half targets, dropping one and having another picked off. Engram finished the night with two receptions out of seven pass targets for nine yards.
His inability to get a clean release after the Giants recovered the muffed punt at the Steelers' 3-yard line and get into a position to catch a ball in the end zone cost the Giants four points (they would get a 21-yard field goal from Graham Gano out of that drive). And Engram nullified a 24-yard reception when he was called for offensive pass interference.
The defensive secondary continues to be a concern. The Giants lost coverage on Ben Roethlisberger's 13-yard touchdown pass to receiver James Washington with seven seconds left in the first half, which gave the Steelers a 16-10 lead they never relinquished.
In the fourth quarter, James Bradberry appeared to lose his battle against receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, who beat the defender to the corner to make it a 25-10 game with 5:23 left in the game.
Quarterback Daniel Jones threw a third-quarter interception on the 4-yard line on second down. Jones not only took too long to decide what to do with the ball, he tried to force it in. It was picked off by Cameron Heyward, ending a 19-play, 87-yard drive that ate up 8:50.
Not only was it an ugly play, but it was also an unnecessary one. Jones needs to learn when to take a sack; that instance would have been a good time to do so.
Instead, the Giants came up empty on the drive, and the Steelers proceeded to march 62 yards on nine plays to make it a 19-10 game on kicker Chris Boswell's 36-yard field goal with 14:19 eft in the game.
The offensive line had its moments but for the most part, picked up where it left off last year with struggling to create push in the running game and with picking up twists. Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, and Cameron Fleming, in particular, didn’t appear to have their best showings this week on a first glance.
There were some positives, however. Jones and Darius Slayton connected on a gorgeous 41-yard touchdown pass int he first half, which gave the Giants a 10-3 lead at the time.
Inside linebacker Blake Martinez was a tackling machine--and no, not just as a clean-up type either, but in more of an attack role. Martinez finished as the Giants' leading tackler with 12 tackles, eight solo, and one tackle for a loss.
And Leonard Williams and Lorenzo Carter seemed to make themselves at home in the Steelers backfield most of the first half, just barely missing a couple of chances to sack Ben Roethlisberger, who finished 21 of 32 for 229 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on the night. Williams would eventually get home with a sack thanks to his fine pursuit. He and Carter combined for three quarterback hits on the night.
A highlight on offense was Jones' dime to Slayton, who came down with the 41-yard touchdown reception. Jones and Slayton continue to look like they're in mid-season form when playing pitch and catch. Slayton finished the night with six receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns and a long of 41 yards.
Punt returner Jabrill Peppers finished with a 13.0 average after returning three punts for 39 yards. Peppers, the Giants special teams captain, gives the unit a spark.
The Giants, who visit the Bears next week, have a short work week and a lot to clean up after this one, starting with trying to get the running game, which finished with a net of 29 yards, going.
They could also work to improve their red-zone efficiency after converting just one of three attempts, and the Giants have to find a way to win the time of possession battle.