Ben Roethlisberger vs Eli Manning.
Each have won a pair of Super Bowls, and Sunday at MetLife Stadium the two will square off in a huge game as the Steelers visit the Giants in a week nine affair.
New York comes in a 6-2, and coming off a big win last week in Dallas that saw them rally for a win after they complied six turnovers, then gave up the lead, just to get it back and get a big win.
Pittsburgh is 4-3, but is starting to find itself after back to back wins over the Bengals and Redskins. Last week they held super rookie Robert Griffin III in check, beating the Skins at home 27-12.
All eyes will be on the two QB’s as it’s the first time quarterbacks in opposite conferences with multiple championships are meeting in a regular-season game since Joe Montana’s 49ers beat Jim Plunkett’s Los Angeles Raiders in 1985.
Manning will be up against the NFL’s top-rated pass defense in a Steelers unit that is yielding 182.6 passing yards per game. That’s despite a pass rush that has produced a meager 12 sacks and the fact that star safety Troy Polamalu is set to miss his fourth straight game with a strained right calf.
“They do a good job against the passing game in general, so we’ve got to make sure we’re sharp in our protections, picking up the different blitzes and their looks and having time to get open,” Manning said.
Pittsburgh’s defense has been helped by first-year coordinator Todd Haley‘s offense that is holding onto the ball for more than 34 minutes a game for the league’s second-best mark.
Roethlisberger, who has been sacked just 13 times, has guided a unit that leads the league in third-down conversions at 51.9 percent thanks to his NFL-best 117.1 passer rating on third downs.
“Much has been said about the way in which they’ve directed and changed their offense over there,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “He has been well protected, he has not been hit nearly as much, nor is he forcing anything.”
Running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) have both missed Pittsburgh’s last two games, although there’s a chance each could return Sunday. The Steelers have still been productive on the ground in their consecutive victories, with unheralded Jonathan Dwyer amassing 229 yards rushing.
Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark returned to practice after leaving last week’s 27-12 win over Washington with a concussion.
One glaring difference between these teams is New York’s NFL-best 24 takeaways compared to seven for the Steelers that tie them for the second fewest. Giants safety Stevie Brown, the NFC defensive player of the week, has three of his five interceptions over the last two weeks.
New York’s pass rush is also heating up with 13 sacks over its last three games after totaling eight in its first five.
The Giants are in a familiar position, having started 6-2 for the sixth time in nine seasons under Tom Coughlin. They have never improved to 7-2 in those campaigns, losing four times at home.
New York is 1-7 in game No. 9 under Coughlin.
“We’re very happy to be 6-2,” said Coughlin, whose team won 29-24 at Dallas last Sunday. “We have a long way to go. We have a lot of work to do to be the team that we want to be.”
Pittsburgh is 13-3 in regular-season games against NFC foes since losing to New York four years ago. Manning is 11-5 as a starter at home against the AFC.
“Obviously we are playing the defending world champs in their place,” Mike Tomlin said. “That is varsity ball, as we say in our business.”
This is a huge game for both teams that want to set the tempo, and with the way the Steelers have played on the road, the Giants have the edge with the crowd on their side.
Look for both QB’s to have solid days, but look for Manning to make one more play down the stretch that will lift the Giants to a big win.
New York Giants 27 Pittsburgh 20