By Teresa Varley
The Steelers battled all day against the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, but in the end a bizarre play set the wheels in motion for a disappointing 21-14 loss at Heinz Field.
The loss drops the Steelers to 5-2 on the season, but they remain in first place in the AFC North.
The Steelers got on the board first with Mewelde Moore's touchdown and the Steelers defense put on a strong performance in the red zone in the first half, holding the Giants to three field goals. After opening up a 14-9 lead in the second half on a Nate Washington touchdown grab, the Giants took over following a safety when replacement long snapper James Harrison snapped the ball over Mitch Berger's head and through the end zone to tie the game. The Giants scored on their next series to secure the win.
"I thought that our team fought," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "They made more plays than we did. Quite simply, we came up short. We accept that and we will take this as a learning experience. It is tough to swallow, but we will and we will march forward as a team and get ready for the Washington Redskins."
A fired-up Steelers defense started off strong when LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior stopped Brandon Jacobs for a three-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage. Eli Manning hit Derrick Ward for a four-yard gain, but the Giants came up inches short on Steve Smith's eight-yard reception, going three-and-out.
The Steelers offense responded, coming out like gang-busters. Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a 22-yard gain and Moore took it up the middle for six yards. Moore got the call again and went off right tackle where he found nothing but daylight, going 32-yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers an early 7-0 lead.
Manning got the Giants offense rolling with 17-yard completions to Domenik Hixon and Ward. Smith had a 12-yard reception, giving the Giants first-and-goal from the nine-yard line. But the defense tightened the reins there. On first down Jacobs lost three yards on an unforced fumble. Manning completed two short passes, but the Giants were kept out of the end zone, forcing a 26-yard John Carney field goal, keeping the Steelers on top 7-3.
It would be the Giants defense that came up big on the next possession. Roethlisberger looked for Hines Ward, but James Butler intercepted it, returning it six yards before he fumbled. Corey Webster came out of the bottom of the pile with the recovery for the Giants.
Starting at the Steelers 42-yard line Manning methodically went to work, mixing in the pass with carries by Ward and Jacobs, including a 13-yard carry by Jacobs to the two-yard line. After a defensive offside call Jacobs was stopped for no gain, but on the next carry went in for an apparent touchdown. The Steelers challenged the call and Jacobs was ruled down before the ball crossed the goal line. The Giants got another shot at it, going for it on fourth-and-goal, but Jacobs was stopped by Ryan Clark and Larry Foote. The Giants challenged the call, but the play stood with the Steelers taking over on downs.
Taking over on the one-yard line the offense wasn't able to muster anything and went three-and-out. Hixson fielded Berger's punt at the Steelers 47-yard line and returned it 28 yards before Berger tripped him up at the 19-yard line. The defense shut down the Giants there, though, and Carney had to come on for his second field goal of the game, closing the gap to 7-6.
The Steelers struggled to move the ball early on their next drive, but it was kept alive when Kenny Phillips was called for unnecessary roughness after hitting Moore on an incompletion, being flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver. Roethlisberger went for broke on the next play, going deep for Washington who couldn't pull it in.
Roethlisberger went back to Washington, who was hit by Butler while juggling the ball and Bryan Kehl swooped in for the interception. Kehl returned it 17 yards and a personal foul for a horse collar against Gary Russell was tacked on. The Giants were able to take advantage of the turnover, driving to the seven-yard line where Carney came on for his third field goal of the game to give the Giants their first lead at 9-7.
Roethlisberger was sacked to start the next drive, but they quickly got out of the hole when Miller pulled in a 19-yard reception. Moore then rattled off a nine-yard run to the Steelers 46-yard line at the two-minute warning in the first half. Moore came right back with a 10-yard carry to take them into Giants territory. After two short passes Roethlisberger was sacked for a nine-yard loss, knocking the Steelers out of field goal range.
After exchanging possessions to start the second half the Steelers took over at their own 35-yard line. And they went for it all. Roethlisberger aired it out, hitting Washington in stride for a 65-yard touchdown to put the Steelers back on top 14-9.
The defense stymied Manning on the next possession, forcing the Giants to go three-and-out.
It was then the offense started to take control. Limas Sweed had a 12-yard catch and Ward added a 10-yard reception. Moore chipped in with carries of five and four yards, setting up a third-and-one. Things started to unravel there. Moore went up the middle for seven yards, but Ward was called for an illegal formation penalty. On third-and-six Roethlisberger hit Sweed for a 10-yard completion and the first down, but Chris Kemoeatu was hit with a 15-yard personal foul after the play. The Steelers had the chance to put the game away when Roethlisberger hit Washington for a 53-yard touchdown, but Willie Colon was called for holding, negating the play. The Steelers were unable to get out of the hole they dug themselves in and had to punt. Long snapper Greg Warren was injured on the punt, forcing him out of the game.
The Giants took over deep in their own territory at the five-yard line and went nowhere fast, going three and out with the Steelers applying constant pressure.
The Steelers got the ball at the Giants 49-yard line and drove to the 34-yard line. They went for it on fourth-and-five and Roethlisberger was intercepted by Webster, who returned it to the Giants 35-yard line.
It looked like the Giants were going to really make the interception hurt when Manning converted a fourth-and-six by hitting Amani Toomer for a 30-yard gain to the four-yard line. While the defense might have bent, they weren't about to break, and held the Giants to another Carney field goal, cutting the lead to 14-12.
After a sack ended the Steelers next drive, a bizarre play tied the game. Harrison filled in for Warren as the long snapper and from the 18-yard line his snap went sailing over Berger's head and through the end zone for a safety to tie the game.
The Giants got the ball back on a free kick and went to work, starting at their own 47-yard line and closing it off with a two-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss for a 21-14 lead that they would hold on to.
Notes: Long snapper Greg Warren left the game with a torn ACL . Safety Ryan Clark also left the game with a shoulder injury. The Steelers offense was without three starters as running back Willie Parker and tackle Marvel Smith were inactive with injuries and wide receiver Santonio Holmes also sat for the game.