The long offseason is finally over. After eight months of torturous waiting, the New York Giants will actually play a competetive football game Monday night. First-year head coach Joe Judge won’t receive a cozy welcome either, as New York will host the Pittsburgh Steelers. Daniel Jones and this young Giants offense will be tested early against an array of Steeler defensive stars. Don’t expect the likes of T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Bud Dupree to pull any punches. Pittsburgh will also see quarterback Ben Roethlisberger return after missing nearly all of last season with an injury to his throwing elbow. Even if Big Ben isn’t yet at one hundred percent, he’ll elicit a major improvement over the Steelers’ 2019 offensive form. Here’s a an overview of everything you need to know ahead of Monday night’s matchup, followed by a prediction for the final score.
Players Out With Injury
Pittsburgh: G David DeCastro
Most Concerning Matchup: DE T.J. Watt vs. RT Cameron Fleming
It’s never good when your weakness is matched up head to head against your opponent’s strength. Fleming, a career backup, was thrust into a starting role when Nate Solder opted out of the season. He’s only started 26 games over six years as an injury replacement. Watt, meanwhile, is one the game’s truly elite pass rushers. His 14.5 sacks in 2019 ranked fifth in the NFL, and his eight forced fumbles were good for first. Against a quarterback like Jones who’s known for coughing the ball up, that forced fumble ability is especially worrisome. The Giants will need to help Fleming with double teams and chip blocks as much as possible, which means rookie tackle Andrew Thomas will have to hold his own against Dupree on the left side.
Latest Giants News
Most Promising Matchup: DT Dexter Lawrence vs. RG Stefen Wisniewski
In the NFL, there’s no time to be accommodating. When your opponent has a starter out with injury, you have to take advantage. The Steelers could do a lot worse than having Wisniewski step in for the injured DeCastro. He’s a nine-year veteran who’s started for much of his career. He’ll be playing out of position at right guard, however, as he’s previously only been a center or left guard. The Giants are counting on Lawrence to have a big second season. The 2019 first-round pick showed flashes as a rookie, but he needs to become a consistent interior disruptor against both the run and pass. He’ll be lined up across from Wisniewski most snaps, so the opportunity is there to have a dominant game against a backup.
Keys to Victory
Roethlisberger could be rusty after such a long layoff since his last start. An interception or two could tilt the turnover battle in New York’s favor, which they need to pull off the upset.
Saquon Barkley has the talent to be the best player on the field Monday night. For the Giants to win, he needs to perform as such. A Barkley-led attack will control the clock, lessen New York’s defense’s time on the field, and minimize Jones’ obligation to throw high-risk passes.
Final Score Prediction: Steelers 24 – Giants 17
Don’t expect either of these offenses to light the world on fire. Roethlisberger will need a few weeks to get his groove back, and the Giants will struggle to generate explosive plays against this smothering Steelers defense. Ultimately, Pittsburgh’s defensive playmakers should create a couple turnovers, which will be enough to hold on for victory in a low-event game.