Splash-play defense shines vs. Giants

A look at Steelers 24, Giants 14 via the magic of the DVR:

MAKING A SPLASH: The defense was on the field for a season-low 25:52 but made the most of it.

The Steelers held the Giants to 16 first downs and 234 total net yards and were able to punctuate their performance with splash plays.

Blitzing proved to be effective but it wasn't essential in the Steelers recording a safety and collecting two sacks and two interceptions.

Third-and-14, Giants' 5-yard line, first quarter: The Steelers rushed four out of their nickel package against the Giants' standard three-wide receivers, one-tight end, one-running back set. Linebacker William Gay gave offensive tackle Ereck Flowers a stutter step and then feigned an outside move before cutting inside. Flowers grabbed Harrison's helmet and was flagged for holding in the end zone and the Steelers were awarded a safety.

Second-and-4, Steelers' 9, second quarter: The Steelers rushed three, which meant they had eight players dropping into coverage against a four-man pattern (running back Rashad Jennings stayed in to help protect). Tight end Larry Donnell came out of the right slot and broke outside initially on linebacker Ryan Shazier and then back inside to the post. Linebacker Ryan Shazier read the play and broke on Donnell before quarterback Eli Manning released the ball. Timmons' leaping interception and 58-yard return set the Steelers up at the Giants' 40.

Third-and-6, Giants' 29, third quarter: The Steelers rushed five against a six-man protection that left Jennings one-on-one with Harrison (a "Backs-on-'Backers" reprisal from Saint Vincent College). Jennings tried to cut-block Harrison (that isn't allowed in training camp) but Harrison hurdled him. As that was happening, linebacker Anthony Chickillo was bearing down after beating right tackle Bobby Hart and Timmons was coming free up the middle. Manning hit the deck, conceding a sack to Harrison. "Self-preservation," Fox analyst Troy Aikman assessed on the broadcast.

Fourth-and-13, Steelers' 35, fourth quarter: The Steelers rushed four and Manning stepped up to avoid pressure from Chickillo from the left side of the defensive formation and then vacated the pocket to stay ahead of Harrison, who was coming from the right side. Manning tried to throw across his body on the run for wide receiver Sterling Shepard but the under-thrown pass was intercepted by strong safety Sean Davis.

Fourth-and-9, Steelers' 24, fourth quarter: A five-man blitz overwhelmed the Giants. Defensive end Ricardo Mathews got to Manning up the middle after beating guard Marshall Newhouse, but linebacker Arthur Moats, Harrison and defensive end Stephon Tuitt were right behind Mathews.

FIVE-MAN ROTATION: Head coach Mike Tomlin had said he wasn't "into" a five-man rotation at outside linebacker in the wake of Bud Dupree getting back up to speed, but five players ended up seeing playing time at the position against the Giants.

Harrison (45 defensive snaps) started eight of New York's 12 possessions at right outside linebacker.

Dupree (35 snaps) started six possessions at left outside linebacker, all six opposite Harrison.

Chickillo (20 snaps) opened five defensive series at left outside linebacker.

Moats (eight snaps) started one possession at right outside linebacker and one on the left side.

Ryan Shazier (12 snaps) was the last of the five to be on the field for the opening of a Giants' possession (he wound up starting three, all in the second half and all on the right side).


DEFENDING BECKHAM:** Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. finished with 100 yards receiving, but he was targeted 16 times (19 if you included a play on which Beckham was called for pass interference, a play on which Beckham drew a pass interference penalty and the play that resulted in the safety). And Beckham's long reception of 25 yards didn't occur until midway through the fourth quarter (the Giants trailed, 21-7, at the time).

The Steelers threw a variety of approaches and players at him.

Cornerback Stephon Tuitt matched up against Beckham at times, sometimes switching sides from play to play and sometimes from series to series.

Cornerback Artie Burns had his chances to cover Beckham, as well, as did cornerback William Gay (when Beckham was in the slot).

Free safety Mike Mitchell came up with a pair of passes defensed at Beckham's expense, and linebackers Jones, Timmons, Harrison and Ryan Shazier all saw Beckham up close in zone coverage.

Sometimes the Steelers played press coverage against Beckham and sometimes they conceded a cushion.

There was one constant to their coverage.

"He is very fast," Cockrell conceded. "The best thing to control that and contain that is to get hands on him early, before he gets rolling."

The Steelers made a point of being physical with Beckham and it had an effect.

"There definitely has been contact on Odell Beckham that could have been called," Aikman maintained. "And that's why he's showing so much frustration."

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