STEELERS 24, GIANTS 14
Steelers' record: 7-5
One year ago: 7-5
Series record (including playoffs): Giants lead, 46-31-3
Ben Roethlisberger always will be linked to Eli Manning, because both of them are quarterbacks and both of them entered the NFL in 2004 as first-round draft picks of the teams that still employ them. They have each won two Super Bowls. They each are the faces of their NFL franchises, and their franchises are two of the most storied in the history of the league.
What was on the schedule yesterday at Heinz Field wasn't going to threaten to become a part of either of those franchises' rich history, being that it was a regular season game in early December that wasn't going to clinch anything for the victor nor eliminate the loser. That's not to suggest it was meaningless, because there's a very good chance both the Steelers and the Giants will end up being able to look back to the 24-14 outcome and point to it as a likely cause of whatever their respective playoff fates end up being.
Coach Mike Tomlin had opened his news conference on the Tuesday before the game with an explanation of what December football means in each NFL season, and in a subsequent interview he explained what the Steelers are going to need from their quarterback in December:
"It's not anything different than what we need from him over the course of the season," said Tomlin, "but I acknowledge that the job description gets increasingly difficult for the reasons we just talked about – the lack of unknowns, the amount of detail and execution – so it becomes extremely difficult for him to do what it is we need him to do. That position is defined by your ability to move the chains, your ability to convert in situational football – short-yardage, goal-line, red zone, etc. And your ability to take care of the football while you do those things."
HOW THE STORYLINE PLAYED OUT
Roethlisberger completed 67 percent of his passes for 298 yards, and he helped the Steelers convert 50 percent on possession downs – 7-of-15 on third downs, and 1-for-1 on fourth down. He turned the ball over once, but on that interception it appeared as though Eli Rogers could have come back more aggressively for the ball.
By comparison, Eli Manning completed a lower percentage of his passes – 61.5 percent – and for fewer yards (195). The Giants were 4-of-11 on third downs and 0-for-3 on fourth downs to go a combined 4-of-14 on possession downs. Manning also was intercepted twice, and both came with the Giants in scoring territory.
RINGING THE BELL
Le'Veon Bell carried 29 times for 118 yards (4.1 average), and he also caught six passes for another 64 yards to finish with 182 yards from scrimmage. It was his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, and his third in a row. During the last three games, Bell has 80 carries for 384 yards (4.8 average).
The sequence surrounding Ryan Shazier' interception. The Steelers were trying to protect a 5-0 lead just short of the midway point of the second quarter, and the Giants had a second-and-4 from the Pittsburgh 9-yard line. Tight end Larry Donnell flashed open in the end zone, and Eli Manning thought he had him for a go-ahead touchdown. But Timmons flashed across and made a very nice catch for his first interception of the season. Not only did Timmons take the ball away, but he also returned it to the Giants 40-yard line, and three plays later, Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard score that put the Steelers up by two scores, 11-0.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
Three different times the Giants went for it on fourth down, and three different times the Steelers defense held. The last time proved to be the clincher. It was a fourth-and-9 from the Steelers 24-yard line with around seven minutes remaining in the game. The Steelers led, 21-7. In the shotgun, Eli Manning was quickly surrounded by the Steelers pass rush and ended up being sacked by Ricardo Mathews to turn the ball over on downs.
After the game, Tomlin said there are two players in the concussion protocol – Javon Hargrave and Robert Golden.
IMPACT ON THE STANDINGS
The Steelers' victory was their third in a row, and it snapped a six-game winning streak by the Giants. It also kept them in a virtual tie for first place in the AFC North with the Ravens, who hammered the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. Both teams are 7-5, but the Ravens temporarily have the edge based on their victory over the Steelers in Baltimore, with the rematch on tap for Dec. 25.