The New York Giants start the 2020 regular season with a significant bump in the road. The Pittsburgh Steelers represent a dominant defense with a more than capable offense, composed of players like Minkah Fitzpatrick, TJ Watt, Bud Dupree, and Cameron Heyward.
Overcoming a strong Pittsburgh team will be tumultuous for the Giants, but there are several ways they can attack their weaknesses. With All-Pro right guard David DeCastro set to miss the contest, the Giants must overwhelm the right portion of the Steelers’ offensive line. Getting to Ben Roethlisberger is the goal, and should give the Giants more opportunities on offense.
Three significant issues the New York Giants could have against the Steelers:
1.) The Steelers have an elite pass rush
To give you some context on how talented their pass rush is, the Steelers racked up 54 sacks in 2019, while the Giants had 36. That is a significant difference, as a Watt totaled 14.5 on his own. Dupree logged 11.5 while interior defender Heyward tallied nine.
The Giants must find a way to stifle their pass rush attempts, specifically by throwing short passes and running the football with Saquon Barkley. Left tackle Andrew Thomas has a tall task ahead of him with Dupree and career back up Cameron Fleming will attempt to shut down Watt. Completely stopping them is unrealistic, but at the very least, giving Jones some decent time in the pocket would suffice. Head coach Joe Judge already stated that they would use Evan Engram to help on the left side.
Winning the turnover battle is essential for the Giants, who ranked last in the league with a -1.1 turnover differential in 2019.
2.) Minkah Fitzpatrick
In 14 games with the Steelers last year, Minkah Fitzpatrick tallied five interceptions and one taken for a touchdown. He also earned nine passes defended, 57 combined tackles, and one forced fumble, which he returned for a touchdown.
As an elite free safety in the NFL, he can move up closer to the line of scrimmage and play fantastic coverage football. Keeping the Giants’ wide receivers underneath will likely be the case, as he limits downfield plays significantly. I expect Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate to be active from the slot throughout the game. Miss-matching tight end Evan Engram with linebackers is essential, despite having to line up on rangy defender Devin Bush.
3.) Diontae Johnson
While some might say that JuJu Smith-Schuster is the Steelers’ most lethal weapon, the matchup’s would indicate Diontae Johnson could be a problem for the New York Giants.
Johnson, who tallied 59 receptions for 680 yards and five touchdowns last year, is going into the second year of his NFL career. A solid starting point for the second-year wideout, the Giants, don’t have an established CB2 to match up with him on defense. That could be a significant issue, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are certainly looking at how they can exploit that position.
If the Giants can find ways to lock down Johnson and stop him from taking advantage of inadequate talent, they will be in better shape.
I imagine the Giants will likely trot out Logan Ryan, Corey Ballantine, or Julian Love to fill the void position. With DeAndre Baker being released and Sam Beal opting out of the 2020 season, it will be interesting to see how this supplement their losses. Nonetheless, Johnson is a tough receiver at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds. He’s quick and agile, so utilizing a more athletic option against him might be in the Giants’ best interest.
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