The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the New York Giants 24-20 Sunday at MetLife Stadium and below are my first half notes from the game with the second half notes to follow soon.
Keenan Lewis got his night off to a good start by knocking away a deep pass intended for Hakeem Nicks on the first play of the game for the Giants. Lewis had given up inside position on the route, but made it up when the ball was in the air. It wasn\'t a great throw by Eli Manning, but it is the result that counts. Sure, he likely should have intercepted it, but at least Nicks didn\'t catch it. The 3rd and short play that soon followed was a dubious play call and there appeared to be a miscommunication between Manning and his receiver Rueben Randle. I am not sure why they didn\'t try to run it behind fullback Henry Hynoski here, but glad they chose otherwise.
The ensuing punt pinned the Steelers offense back deep, but they were able to move out quickly as Isaac Redman picked up 11 yards on first down thanks to outstanding blocking by Maurkice Pouncey, Willie Colon, and Ramon Foster. Right tackle Mike Adams has a poor attempt of a cut block on Justin Tuck on the next first down play and the pass is batted down. The rough start for Adams continues as Tuck easily pushes him aside and beats the rookie across his face inside for an easy sack of Ben Roethlisberger. The offense then dodges a huge bullet as Chris Rainey fumbles trying to make something happen on a screen play. Luckily it ends up out of bounds, but the offense is faced with a 3rd and long that they cant convert.
On the next Giants possession it is Lewis recording his second pass breakup on a ball intended for Nicks on first down. On the 3rd and 5 that followed it was Lewis yet again making a play as he maneuvered himself into the passing lane to knock down a pass after coming off the corner on a blitz. It would have been an easy conversion if he doesn\'t adjust on the play after knowing that he can\'t get home. As a result the Giants are forced to punt.
On the 3rd and 1 play at the start of the Steelers next series it is Roethlisberger avoiding pressure to hit Redman for the first down. On the next 3rd down the offense fails to convert as Antrel Rolle comes off of the corner to bat down a screen pass to the left flat that was intended for Rainey.
LaMarr Woodley misses a jam on Victor Cruz at the beginning of the Giants next possession and it results in an explosive play. The defense follows that up with a splash play as Ike Taylor picks off a wobbling pass from Manning after Steve Mclendon and Cameron Heyward get heavy pressure on the Giants quarterback. McLendon fought through two blockers on the play to force the bad throw.
Two nice runs by Redman up the middle start off the Steelers next possession, but Roethlisberger forces a deep ball to Antonio Brown into double coverage that results in not only an incomplete pass, but a sprained ankle for Brown as well. Redman continues his strong running and it results in the offense setting up shop first and goal as we are now into the second quarter. On the 11th play of the drive Roethlisberger hits Emmanuel Sanders in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. The coverage is decent on the play and Foster helps provide extra pocket time by walking his man out of the passing lane.
The next Giants possession is when the game really turns in favor of the home team as Lewis is flagged for pass interference on Nicks. Lewis played it perfectly and it was the first of several bad calls to come in a short period of time. After the Giants drive the ball down to the Steelers two, the defense holds as Taylor almost has his second pick of the game. At the end of the play Ryan Clark uses his shoulder on Cruz just in case he is to make the catch but is flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit instead. Bad call number two and it gives the Giants a new set of downs at the Steelers one-yard line. The one yard run by Andre Brown that followed was ruled a touchdown, but it certainly was hard to tell if indeed the ball broke the plane. It is reviewed, but there is not enough evidence to overturn it and the Giants tie the game at 7.
Rainey gets the next possession off to a great start by returning the kickoff past midfield. Both Will Johnson and Ryan Mundy provide excellent blocking to free him. After a rare drop by Heath Miller on first down, Redman rolls backside for a first down thanks to second level blocks made by Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, who is now the third receiver with Brown out of the game injured. On the second down play that follows, Max Starks is beaten to the edge by Osi Umenyiora and the pressure forces Roethlisberger to try and pull back his arm while throwing. The ball slips out of his hand while his arm is moving forward and Michael Boley scoops up the loose ball up and returns it 70 yards for what looks like a touchdown. The replay has everyone convinced that it will be ruled an incomplete pass under the "tuck role", but the official review of the play somehow fails to overturn the call on the field. If that was not bad enough, the referees also missed a block in the back on Miller during the fumble return. At worst this should have been a turnover with Giants having possession deep in the Steelers end, but instead the home team now has 14 points thanks to in part to several bad calls.
Rainey again has another nice return and the offense is back on the field to try and put more points on the board before halftime. On a 3rd and three Rainey is stopped short after catching a screen pass, but Redman converts the fourth and short thanks to a nice block by Johnson on the right side. A few plays later Mike Wallace drops a pass on 2nd down and 7 and Adams gets trucked by Jason Pierre-Paul on third down to allow his second sack of the game. The Steelers are forced to punt.
Lewis is flagged for pass interference early on in the Giants next drive and this time the right call is made as Lewis failed to get his head turned around to find the under thrown pass from Manning. Woodley gets pressure off the left side on a subsequent third down that will follow and the Giants are forced to settle for a long field goal attempt which comes up short.
The Steelers defense takes over after the miss on their own 41 yard-line with 31 seconds left in the half and Roethlisberger then proceeds to hit Cotchery on a deep seam route for an explosive play against a Tampa-two defense. Roethlisberger next hits Miller on another seam route to get the ball down to the Giants 12 yard-line with 13 seconds left. The ball is then spiked with 5 seconds left in the half and Shaun Suisham comes in for a chip shot field goal to give the Steelers a little momentum headed into halftime.
The Steelers really owned the first half, yet are beyond on the scoreboard thanks to the bad calls. at least they get the ball to start the second half.