When the Pittsburgh Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger after two games of the 2019 season, they were written off by most. But they circled the wagons, used Mason Rudolph and Devin Hodges behind center, and hung in the playoff race until the latter stages of the season. Most BetOnline customers were duly impressed, and now they are healthier as they take on the New York Giants in the opener of ESPN’s Monday night doubleheader at 7:15 PM ET (the Titans and Broncos tangle in the nightcap).
Roethlisberger’s elbow injury sidelined him very early, and the Steelers had to improvise. They did not have James Conner healthy for the whole season either. The offense ranked 30th in the league, and the ground game practically did not exist.
But there was defense, and lots of it. Pittsburgh forced more turnovers than any other NFL team, and also registered the most quarterback sacks. They came home 8-8, and if they hadn’t faded in the end, with three straight losses (scoring ten points in each), they might have made it to the post-season. Mike Tomlin and his staff truly did an outstanding job.
So what marked the Giants’ 2019 campaign? Well, a number of injuries, for certain, but also the sad farewell to Eli Manning, who was benched in favor of rookie Daniel Jones (returning for a win over Miami). Now it is Jones’ show, and they are happy that they have a full complement of weapons for him.
Their new head coach is Joe Judge, who had been the special teams coordinator for the New England Patriots. He’s 38 years old, but he brought aboard some experience in the person of former Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who will work with Jones and call the plays as offensive coordinator. Judge has more or less given him “carte blanche.”
Here are rhe Monday Night Football betting odds, as they are posted at BetOnline:
Pittsburgh Steelers -6 (-108)
New York Giants +6 (-112)
Over 46 points -110
Under 46 points -110
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The Giants have a chance to score some points this season. That’s because the way it looks now, they will have their skill people healthy. Of course, at the head of that list is Saquon Barkley, whose ability as a rusher and pass-catcher almost seems wasted these last couple of seasons. Wide receivers have been in and out of the lineup due to injuries, but Darius Slayton provided a silver lining of sorts, with 740 yards. He’s a deep threat. And then when you consider the prospect of full participation by Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, as well as tight end Evan Ingram – who has the potential to be Jones’ favorite target – you could be looking at a much different offense than last season.
But Jones has had a tendency to commit turnovers, and that could be fatal against this Pittsburgh defense, which led the league in takeaways last year. If New York had a more solid offensive line, there could be more confidence. But Nate Solder elected to opt out of the season, which forced Judge to take first-round draft pick Andrew Thomas and put him at left tackle, when the original plan was to have him on the right side. Among other things, the Steelers also led the NFL in sacks in 2019.
It’s hard to come to a definitive conclusion as to what will happen with Roethlisberger, who is now 38 years old. But unless Big Ben has “lost it” overnight, it’s likely that Juju Smith-Schuster, who never got all that comfortable with Rudolph or Hodges, will become much more of a threat. The Giants brought personnel in to bolster the secondary. But second-round pick Xavier McKinney had foot surgery, and neither corner James Bradberry nor safety Jabril Peppers are real difference-makers. The capable Logan Ryan was just recently acquired, but is just starting to learn coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme.
The Steelers should have a more effective running game than last year’s anemic effort. James Conner may not have to handle the whole load; Benny Snell has real potential, and they like speedy rookie Anthony McFarland.
Weaknesses of the Giants seem to play into what the Steelers are going to do well. And home field advantage is, well, negligible. It’s a rocky debut for Joe Judge, as we lay the points.
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