News & Analysis

NFL Week 1 PFF ReFocused: Pittsburgh Steelers 26, New York Giants 16

Defense was the name of the game as the Pittsburgh Steelers overcame the New York Giants in the first Monday Night Football game of the 2020 NFL season.

Though Ben Roethlisberger’s return to the field received much of the attention, it was the stability of the Steelers' defense that controlled most of the game and made life too tough for Daniel Jones and the Giants' offense.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

Story of the Game

Many of the overall offensive stats ended up looking close, as the Steelers allowed the Giants to chew clock late and put a score up to flatter the end result a little, but Pittsburgh forced critical turnovers, including the first red-zone interception of Jones’ young NFL career. Conversely, while the Steelers put the ball on the ground with fumbles on multiple occasions, they were able to recover them to prevent further damage. Even an early muffed punt recovered by the Giants at Pittsburgh’s 3-yard line became only a field goal.

Perhaps no stat better shows this 2020 defensive unit's impression of the Steel Curtain than the Giants’ rushing numbers. They had 24 net rushing yards, and their backs were hit 1.3 yards behind the line of scrimmage on average.

Roethlisberger’s return to action after missing almost all of 2019 started a little slowly, but things started to click for the Steelers once he got into a rhythm; he found an impressive connection with all four of his top wide receivers. Roethlisberger found himself under pressure at times, but it tended to come late in the play. When he was in rhythm, the passing offense looked like it could become something extremely formidable over the season.

Though Jones made a few nice plays, the Giants' offense was just overmatched by Pittsburgh’s defense and, in particular, the pressure packages that they deployed to keep pace on the scoreboard.

Sep 14, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) catches a pass in front of New York Giants cornerback Julian Love (20) and cornerback James Bradberry (24) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie Watch

Steelers rookie receiver Chase Claypool looks set to continue the team’s incredible draft record at the position. He didn’t play many snaps (just 14 of 57 offensive plays), but he made a spectacular sideline catch from a Roethlisberger pass as well as a short catch and a late end-around to seal the victory.

Edge defender Alex Highsmith saw 10 snaps on defense for Pittsburgh as well, notching one defensive stop and chasing after Jones on one play as he escaped from the pocket.

For the Giants, first-rounder Andrew Thomas played every snap at left tackle. And though he surrendered some pressure, he wasn’t the primary source of the team's protection problems.

Third-round rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes also saw significant action for New York, earning 47 snaps but struggling as part of a secondary that couldn't find its footing throughout the game. Holmes gave up five catches and a couple of first downs from seven targets.

ELITE subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats 2.0.

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