The first of two Monday night games in Week 1 will feature the Pittsburgh Steelers taking on the New York Giants. On the road, the Steelers are six-point favorites with an over/under of 46 points.
The 2020 season brings another new era for the Giants. Pat Shurmur lasted just two seasons in the Meadowlands; now, first-time head coach Joe Judge will be taking over after last year’s 4-12 disaster. After going 12-36 over the past three seasons, Judge and the Giants have nowhere to go but up. The new head coach has also done a great job of surrounding himself with former head coaches, most notably offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
On the other hand, the Steelers have been consistent as they come for their coaching staff. Mike Tomlin is still going strong, keeping his job as Pittsburgh’s head coach since 2007. However, Pittsburgh missed the playoffs last year for the second consecutive season, marking the second time during Tomlin’s tenure the team did not advance in back-to-back years. There’s a chance that Tomlin won’t survive a third consecutive year without taking the Steelers to the playoffs, so there is pressure on him to get Pittsburgh off to a fast start in 2020.
Ben is Back
One of the biggest reasons the Steelers missed the playoffs last season was because they played most of the season without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. After making a full recovery, Roethlisberger is back and ready to get the Pittsburgh offense back on track. However, it’s fair to wonder what the 38-year-old has left in the tank after an elbow injury, which required surgery, caused him to miss 14 games last year.
The Steelers didn’t get much from their rushing attack, especially after James Conner suffered knee and shoulder injuries and struggled to stay on the field. Top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster also failed to impress in Roethlisberger’s absence, so there are lingering uncertainties on the Pittsburgh offense.
Meanwhile, the Giants hope to be more formidable on defense than they were a year ago. The G-Men have 2019 first-round pick Dexter Lawrence and former New York Jet Leonard Williams anchoring what could be a strong defensive line. With multiple additions to the linebacker group and secondary, the Giants improved their quality and depth, using seven of their ten picks in April’s draft to address their defensive needs.
Offensively, much of the season for the Giants hinges on the development of Daniel Jones. Without any preseason games, it is difficult to see what progress has been made since his rookie campaign. The good news is that the Giants will have a strong supporting cast around him when everybody is healthy. Not only is Saquon Barkley one of the most talented backs in the league, but also the receiving trio of Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, and Sterling Shepard should be a capable arsenal of weapons for Jones to target. New York’s offensive line needs to be better, with a lot resting on the performance of left tackle Andrew Thomas, the Giants’ 4th overall pick in the 2020 Draft.
The only thing the Giants know for sure is they will be up against a top-notch defense on Monday night. The Steelers conceded fewer than 19 points per game last season, which is the only reason why Pittsburgh was in the playoff hunt last December. The defensive line is stout as ever, with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree making a great edge-rushing duo. The secondary looks stacked with ball-hawking safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. They won’t make it easy for Jones to feel comfortable.
Without fans at MetLife Stadium, the Giants will lose any home-field advantage they might have had against Pittsburgh. This game is all about picking the better team, and there should be little doubt the Steelers are better. Roethlisberger deserves the benefit of the doubt, despite some reasonable questions about his post-surgery abilities. Jones hasn’t proven enough to make anyone think he’ll have sustained success against the Pittsburgh defense. Bet on the Steelers to cover the six-point spread on Monday night.