Two of the NFL's most storied franchises kick off the preseason with a standalone game on Saturday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers play host to the New York Giants in the Steel City.
What a difference a year makes for Big Blue. The Giants finished the 2011 season 9-7, got hot at the right time and won the Super Bowl. In 2012 that same 9-7 mark wasn't even good enough to get them to the postseason dance and a lot of people now look at New York as a descending club.
The offense certainly needs some tweaks and the signing of former Oakland tight end Brandon Myers could really help Eli Manning. The offensive line, however, remains pedestrian even after reaching for Syracuse guard/tackle Justin Pugh with the 19th overall pick in the draft.
On defense, the line is a concern. New York struggled mightily against the run and saw its once vaunted pass rush evaporate into a non-entity a year ago. When the Giants were winning Super Bowls, it was usually because of Manning along with the pass rush. Osi Umenyiora is now in Atlanta, Justin Tuck has seen his better days and Jason Pierre-Paul was closer to ordinary than J.J. Watt a season ago. Keep an eye on third-round pick Damontre Moore, who has excelled early in camp and could help.
There is also plenty of work to be done in Pittsburgh as age has slowly crept up on the Steelers. In fact, this could be the most important training camp for the Steelers in years as they have to find answers at multiple positions.
Pittsburgh has moved on from former Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton and really can't count on oft- injured safety Troy Polamalu. Meanwhile, two of the team's younger playmakers, wide receiver Mike Wallace and cornerback Keenan Lewis jetted in free agency to Miami and New Orleans, respectively.
Former Georgia star Jarvis Jones said he would never get past the Steelers in the draft and sure enough he didn't. It's almost like the whole league conspires to give Pittsburgh impact 3-4 players. Poor 40 times sent Jones crashing out of the top 10, but the Steelers may have gotten a Terrell Suggs- like steal in the first round.
Pittsburgh also may have found their successor to the declining Polamalu in fourth-round choice Shamarko Thomas, an undersized, high-energy thumper on the back end.
Offensively, second-rounder Le'Veon Bell is supposed to install some of that Jerome Bettis-like toughness back into Pittsburgh's running game but he is a big back who doesn't run like one most of the time and hasn't shown the nastiness as runner the Steelers expect from their backs.
This will be the second preseason meeting between these two teams since 2010 but it is only the fourth time the two franchises have met in the preseason since 1992. It's also the first time the Giants will play a preseason contest at Heinz Field and just the second trip overall. Pittsburgh has won its last five preseason home openers and has taken four straight from the NYG at exhibition time.