I was going to do a “things to watch” post for Monday night’s New York Giants-Pittsburgh Steelers game. Everyone, though, does those. You can read them in a dozen other places. I will probably do them myself for most games this season.
This is the season opener, though. So, let’s work a little harder and try something different. Let’s try an ABCs look at Giants-Steelers and see how many intelligent connections I can come up with for the alphabet’s 26 letters.
A is for ... Atmosphere: What is it going to be like at MetLife Stadium with no fans in the stands? I will be in the press box, and I will let you know.
B is for ... Barkley: Well, Saquon Barkley is the Giants’ best player. What else would this be for?
C is for ... Cornerback: What are the Giants going to do at cornerback opposite James Bradberry? I’m not even sure they know.
D is for ... David DeCastro: The star guard, a two-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler five years running, won’t play for the Steelers because of a knee injury.
E is for ... Engram: If the Giants are going to win Monday night, tight end Evan Engram is likely going to have to play a big role in making it happen.
F is for ... Fumbles: Daniel Jones of the Giants committed more than any player in the NFL in 2019. T.J. Watt of the Steelers forced 8 of them last season. That’s not a promising combination for the Giants.
G is for ... Gates: As in Nick Gates, the Giants’ first-time starting center. Can he successfully orchestrate the Giants’ blocking schemes against a quality Pittsburgh front seven?
H is for ... hamstring: The Giants have three players, wide receiver Golden Tate, tight end Levine Toilolo and linebacker Tae Crowder listed as questionable with hamstring injuries. Tate, the veteran wide receiver and key part of the Giants’ passing attack, is the critical one. The Giants need to be at full strength against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense.
I is for ... Idiot: Because I really didn’t want to work this hard to come up with these, and I’m an idiot for getting myself into this mess.
J is for Judge: What else would it be for? Giants’ rookie head coach Joe Judge makes his debut Monday night. After two failed coaching hires, the Giants went on a limb by hiring this 38-year-old. Will he be up to the task? Indications are that he will, but the games will tell the real story.
K is for ... Kreiter: For the first time since 2007, the Giants go into a season without Zak DeOssie as a long snapper. Casey Kreiter, a 2018 Pro Bowler entering his fifth season, should be just fine.
L is for ... Lorenzo: In the Giants’ final intra-squad scrimmage, edge rusher Lorenzo Carter was dominant. Depending on who was counting, Carter had somewhere between three and a gazillion sacks of Daniel Jones. We have never seen that version of Carter in a game that counted. Sure would be nice if he showed up against the Steelers.
M is for ... Monday: It’s Monday Night Football! Are you ready?
N is for ... Noise: With no fans, some artificial crowd noise will be pumped into MetLife Stadium? Will that include booing protests? Bad play? The shuffling of fans to the exits if the Giants are losing badly?
O is for ... Opener: We have Giants football on Monday night! Enough said.
P is for ... Protest: We know some type of pre-game protest or statement is coming from the players. What form will it take?
Q is for ... Question: I have a question. Does anyone have a good Giants-Steelers connection for this annoying letter of the alphabet? I don’t.
R is for ... Roethlisberger: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is returning after needing reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow that cost him most of last season. What will he look like?
S is for ... Smith-Schuster: JuJu Smith-Schuster is Pittsburgh’s best wide receiver. Will Giants’ No. 1 cornerback James Bradberry travel with him Monday night?
T is for ... Thomas: Rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas probably won’t see too much of T.J. Watt, but Bud Dupree (11.5 sacks a year ago) is a headache by himself. The Giants drafted Thomas No. 4 overall for situations like this, and the rookie isn’t exactly being given time for growing pains.
U is for ... Underdog: The Giants are 6-point underdogs. Best get used to that. The Giants will be underdogs in nearly every game they play this season.
V is for ... Victory: It’s been quite a while since the Giants beat a good football team in a meaningful game. Well, the Steelers are good and the season-opener is always meaningful. So, could the Giants be celebrating a victory Monday night?
W is for ... Watt: T.J. Watt is the star of the Pittsburgh front seven. He not only has the ability to sack quarterbacks (27.5 over the past two seasons), but he has forced 14 fumbles in that time. Daniel Jones, beware!
X is for ... X-Men: The Giants have two, Xavier McKinney and Oshane Ximines. McKinney, though, is on IR. Can Ximines carry the shield for the X-Men and wreak some havoc?
Y is for ... Yiadom: A 2018 third-round pick by the Denver Broncos, Isaac Yiadom couldn’t stick in the Mile High City. The Giants traded a seventh-round pick for him barely more than a week ago, and might ask for a significant contribution Monday night. Can Yiadom give them one?
Z is for ... Zzzzs: Yes, it’s Monday Night Football. It is, though, a 7:10 start on the east coast. No excuses for not making it to the end of the game, or for having a hard time getting up for work/school on Tuesday morning.