This week marks a homecoming of sorts for New York Giants‘ head coach Ben McAdoo.
Hailing from Homer City, Pa., a small town roughly 50 miles outside Pittsburgh, McAdoo is going home as the Giants go on the road to face the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.
The Giants’ coach, however is focused on the reason why he’s close to home, rather than being there.
“No,” McAdoo said, when asked if it would be emotional going to Pittsburgh. “We're focused on the preparation for the ball game. That's what everything is about this week. It's about going to Pittsburgh and preparing to beat the Steelers.”
McAdoo had nothing but praise for the Steelers players, recognizing the threat that Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown pose.
“He's a very talented player. He's a big back with receiver-type skills. He has good vision and runs with patience. In two-minute, he's a magnet for the ball. He does a good job getting the chains moving there and keeps them in favorable down and distances. He's one of the best in the league at that position.”
“He's a smart player. He has good natural hands, he's a hands catcher. Instincts are there and he's a very good route runner, whether it's short to intermediate with his patience or down the field. He does a good job of getting defenders off their grass.”
Like the Giants, the Steelers are at their best when they’re in the red zone.
“They're one of the best red zone/green zone teams in the league with their offense and their defense combined.” McAdoo said. “They're playing at a high level right there. They're multiple and, again, their system is in the bricks. They have play makers at each level of the defense and they have good veteran leadership and they have young guys who play competitive and play hungry. But we're going to spend a little bit more time on them in the green zone, red zone this afternoon.“
In his opening remarks McAdoo praised the talent on the Steelers’ defense. He said, “Defensively, they're young and have some experienced leaders in the group. They're confident and they're playing at a high level. Stephon Tuitt has done a nice job for them upfront. They're loaded at the linebacker spot, inside and outside, like they typically are with James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier and company. They have an athletic secondary led by physical, hard-hitting safety, Mitchell.”
That defense, still based on the principles pioneered by Dick LeBeau, is a difficult one to diagnose.
“They always have [run a complex defense].” McAdoo said, “The system is in the bricks there. I think they've been in the same system since 1992 or around that time. Again, tremendous defense, a history there, it's in the bricks.”
Turning to his own defense, McAdoo was asked about the player who will likely spend most of Sunday across from Brown. “He's a competitor,” McAdoo said of Janoris Jenkins. “We knew that when we got him. It seems like the secondary feeds off of him a little bit. Very opportunistic and he never shies away from competition.”
He added, “I think whoever ends up on Brown is going to be competing at a high level and they're going to have to bring their best game.”
But it all starts up front for the Giants, and nobody is having a better season (all things considered) than Jason Pierre-Paul.
“I think it's very impressive the progress he's made since you saw him come back last year to where he is now and the production he's having,” McAdoo said. “The success he's having getting after the quarterback, in the run game as well, and also being able to come up with the loose ball the other day.
“I just think all the hard work and him being able to play with the hand, the way it's been.” McAdoo added, when asked if he was seeing anything specific about his game of late. “I think he's just cashing in on his hard work and his preparation. I think confidence probably has a lot to do with it.”
On the Giants’ offensive struggles
“We just talked this week about being more consistent with what we're doing in the details. We need to get in scoring range more often. We seem like we're one scoring attempt away each week, whether it's a touchdown or a field goal. If you get in scoring position five times, you get three touchdowns or four touchdowns out of it and some field goals, it gives you an opportunity to hit 30 points or at least 27, which is the bench mark.”
The Giants had a special guest on Wednesday who might be able to help with some of those details, Peyton Manning.
McAdoo, for one, was happy to have him, saying “It was great. Any time you have a chance to have one of the best players to ever play the game in your building, you want to take advantage of it.”
What did they talk about? Oh, just football stuff, McAdoo said. “Just talked about some general football things, philosophies, some scheme stuff. Kept it simple.”