(East Rutherford, NJ)  If the Pittsburgh Steelers have a slogan for the 2020 season, it should be ‘ Play with Ben Roethlisberger’ as it was obvious that his presence was missed after missing all of 2019 due to injury.

Well, big Ben proved that his presence does make a difference as he shook off first half rust to pass for 3 TDs leading the Steelers to a 26-16 win over the NY Giants at MetLife Stadium.

“It’s awesome to have our quarterback back and see the things he does in the manner he does.” Said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who is now 16-2 under Mike Tomlin and won 9 straight on Monday Night Football.

On the Steelers at empty Met-Life Stadium for safety reasons due to Covid-19: “They generated their own enthusiasm. They played with emotion. They were simply happy to play the game, and I thought it was reflected in the spirit in which they played.”

Big Ben also passed for 229 yards on 21/32 passing. It took him some time to heat up,as he began to utilize his receiving weapons, which included Wide Receiver  Ju-Ju Smith- Shuster who caught of Big Ben’s TD passes and led the team with 69 yards. It was also a statement game for Smith-Shuster as he spent the majority of 2019 due to injury.

James Washington reaches over the goalline to score a touchdown against the New York Giants on September 14, 2020 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)

The other TD went to WR James Washington who bulldozed his way into the endzone to give the Steelers a lead that they would never relinquish. “That’s a guy that’s got a nose for the end zone. … that’s a guy rising up and making the necessary play and doing what he has to do to deliver for his teammates.”-Said Tomlin of Washington.

The Steelers got some much-needed help in the running game from second year Running Back  Benny Snell Jr who took over for starter James Conner (injury) to rush for 113 yards on 19 carries. It was the first 100-yard game in Snell’s NFL career. “I wasn’t surprised about what he was able to do. He’s a quality player who has matured and was ready to answer the bell when called upon.” Said Tomlin.

But if you know the Steelers, it wasn’t easy as they gave up a 1st quarter TD to Giants QB Daniel Jones when he found WR Darius Slayton for a 41-yard TD pass in which he burned Steeler Corner Backs  Steven Nelson and Joe Haden. Jones also faked Steelers Safety  Minkah Fitzpatrick who did not follow the receiver. At the time it gave the Giants a 10-3 lead.

But the Steelers defense buckled down and did not allow another TD (also to Slayton) until late in the 4th quarter when the game was all but settled. Slayton would lead all WRs with 102 yards receiving. Jones would pass for 279 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions.

Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward (#97) extends for an interception against the New York Giants on September 14, 2020 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)

The first interception was snagged by Linebacker  TJ Watt which eventually led to the Steelers first points on the board, but Jones’ second interception was more significant as he drove the Giants down over 90 yards to the Steelers 5. But his next pass was tipped by LB Bud Dupree and fell into the hands of Defensive End  Cam Heyward for his first career interception, killing the Giants drive.

The Steelers defense also put the clamps on Giants All-Pro RB Saquon Barkley as they held him to 9 yards on 15 carries. “We had a commitment. We were not going to be bashful about that commitment. … We put our secondary in harm’s way to do so.”-Said Tomlin regarding Barkley.

The Steelers defense also sacked Jones 3 times, with DE Stephon Tuitt, S Mike Hilton and LB Vince Williams getting one apiece.

Although Kicker  Chris Boswell helped the his team’s cause with 2 field goals, what really benefitted the Steelers was the ability to get into the end zone, especially before the end of the first-half as Big Ben led them on a successful 2-minute drill which led to Washington’s TD. “It’s easy to point back to something now with hindsight being 20/20. that two-minute drive before the half was significant.”-Said Tomlin.

The Steelers will now travel back to Pittsburgh to prepare for their home opener at Heinz Field against the Denver Broncos. And part of that preparation will have to deal with their injuries: Stefan Wisniewski (pectoral), Zach Banner (knee) and James Conner (ankle). Tomlin said all are being evaluated.

This was also the Steelers first time they started the season 1-0 since 2017 as they tied the Cleveland Browns in 2018 and lost to the New England Patriots to open 2019.

Tomin said the Steelers have a lot of work to do but that “It’s good to work on things with a W.”

Notes: The Steelers stood side by side while a group of players held a white banner with the words “Steelers Against Racism.” Only tight end Eric Ebron raised his arm. Nineteen of the Giants’ 48 active players knelt during the national anthem, mostly defensive players. Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson was on a knee with a hand across his heart. Rookie WR (and first-round draft pick) Chase Claypool had an impressive debut for the Steelers as he caught 2 passes for 29 yards, including a toe-tapping sideline catch that went for 28 yards.

(Photos Courtesy of Golden Sky Media )

 

Please e-mail Ray at rayporterjr72@gmail.com

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