On Sunday, November 4, 2012, the Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to storm-torn New Jersey to face the New York Giants. It is the premier game of the week, but even more it is a match-up of the league's noble franchises. The Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots are evil enemies to be detroyed. The Giants, though, are a noble franchise with family roots intertwined the Steelers. This game is more like a jousting match between honorable kings.
Nobles From the Same Line
The two Irish families behind these franchises, the Rooneys (Steelers) and the Maras (Giants) have a long history together. In fact, Kathleen Rooney married Chris Mara, the current Senior Vice President of Player Evaluation for the Giants. Their daughter, Rooney Mara (now an acclaimed actress) showcases the combination of the families in her name. Both families have put the league ahead of their own franchises, knowing that without a strong league, no franchise can succeed.
The organizations share similar philosophies. Teams are built around a blue-collar work ethic that stresses team accomplishments ahead of individual acclaim or glitz. Coaches are tough, but fair. The organizations also share a family-oriented focus that leaves aside cheerleaders. As Giants co-owner, John Mara, said, "Philosophically we have always had issues with sending scantily clad women out on the field to entertain our fans. It's just not part of our philosophy." The Steelers, for similar reasons, also do not have professional cheerleaders. With the Steelers and Giants combining for ten out of 46 Super Bowl titles, their football-only philosophy is working well.
Both teams feature two-time Super Bowl winning quarterbacks drafted in the same year. Ben Roethlisberger is big, hard to tackle, and extends plays. Eli Manning is shifty in the pocket, decisive, and accurate. Both are at their best in late game, pressure situations. While both teams have seen their rushing attacks get stronger in the last couple weeks, they thrive when their passing game is clicking. Each quarterback is playing extremely well so far in 2012.
On defense, the Giants have a different philosophy than the Steelers. They attack with four defensive linemen who can all get to the quarterback. That leaves seven other players to cover receivers. They don't gamble with the blitz or rely on deception because their linemen, including Jason Pierre Paul, are tremendous athletes. Because of their pressure, the Giants have forced sixteen interceptions in their eight games. Ben Roethlisberger (who has thrown the fewest interceptions for the season) and his offensive line will need to be great to withstand the Giants' barrage.
The Steelers, pioneers of the 3-4 and zone blitz schemes, will try to confuse Eli Manning. While they are the NFL's second ranked defense (by yardage), they have not generated many turnovers or big plays. They stifle drives quickly, and the offense helps by keeping the ball for 34 minutes per game (second best in the league). The Steelers are finally combining good play in all three phases to produce team victories.
Mike Tomlin is 16-6 vs the NFC as a head coach (including 2-0 this season). The Giants, though, have dominated the series 46-29-3. The teams have only played four times in the last seventeen seasons. Each team has won two of the previous four against each other. This lack of direct competition keeps out the hate that familiarity breeds.
Sentiment will be on the side of the Giants representing the victims of superstorm Sandy. However, this noble clash should remain close. While I think the Steelers are now playing well enough to win, this is one game where a loss won't feel as devastating. The Giants are a first-class opponent. Sunday should be a classic. Here we go, Steelers, here we go!
Sean Durity is a Terrible Towel twirling Steelers fan living in Atlanta. He grew up cheering the 1970s dynasty and appreciates the organization's excellence even more as an adult. Follow him on Twitter @SeanDurity
More from this contributor:
Seth Walder and Christian Red, "Climbing our way through the Mara family tree" NY Daily News.com
William C. Rhoden, "Sis, Boom, Bah (Humbug): Cheer Squads Have No Place in the N.F.L."
Steelers Game Book provided to media on steelers.com