The New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers open their respective preseason schedules when they meet Saturday night at Heinz Field. As is always the case this time of year, the contest won't be particularly telling -- the starters won't play for long -- though it will be an important step for both teams in sorting out the back end of their rosters.
The Giants and Steelers hope this will be the start of bounce-back seasons after missing the playoffs a season ago. For the Steelers, 2012 was the first time they missed the postseason since 2009, and the first time since 2006 that they won eight games or fewer. The Giants have missed the playoffs in three of the last four years.
Meet the Pittsburgh Steelers
Stopping opponents wasn't the trouble for Pittsburgh last season -- the Steelers finished the 2012 regular season No. 1 in total defense. It was the other side of the ball that led primarily to a mediocre year; Pittsburgh ranked just 21st in total offense and 22nd in scoring.
In order to make progress offensively, the Steelers are going to have to get their wide receiver situation sorted out, and that begins Saturday night. Mike Wallace left for the Dolphins during the offseason, and Plaxico Burress suffered a major injury in camp on Thursday that may keep him out for the season. Pittsburgh is not without some experienced and healthy options, but it needs to figure out who it can count on here.
Meet the New York Giants
For New York, the problem is just the opposite. Eli Manning and company put up points at a solid clip, but the defense was a considerable liability. New York addressed that shortcoming to some extent by selecting defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore in the 2013 draft, but there are issues elsewhere, particularly in the linebacking corps.
Local Takes: Steelers
Green is making a great first impression with the Steelers. Another knocked-around undrafted free-agent turned camp body in Pittsburgh, is forcing on-lookers to take a closer look. While Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor occasionally 'tussle' because the WR continues to beat the DB, Brown has not enjoyed the same success against Green. He was one of Mark Kaboly's surprise standouts during OTAs. Green is recording interceptions in practice, but as Allen Iverson can tell you -- Practice is practice, not a game.
Local Takes: Giants
Ed Valentine of Big Blue View expects to see a lot of rookie quarterback Ryan Nassib, though he doesn't think the Syracuse product will earn the backup job before the start of the season.
Best guess here is that Nassib opens the season as the Giants' No. 3 quarterback, with David Carr at No. 2. Right now he just doesn't look ready to be trusted when it matters.
As for Saturday night, Nassib should receiver a significant amount of playing time. He might play more than any of the Giants' other three quarterbacks.
The Steelers are favored by 2.5 or 3 points, depending on the sportsbook.
Pittsburgh will be back in action against Washington on Aug. 19; that game will be televised by ESPN. The Giants will return home to host Indianapolis on Aug. 18.