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Giants top Steelers, but questions remain for both

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH - Neither the New York Giants nor the Pittsburgh Steelers know who will be their starting running back when the regular season begins.

Neither team found any clarity on Saturday night as the Giants defeated the Steelers 18-13 in a sluggish preseason opener for both teams at Heinz Field.

Andre Brown had 23 yards on four carries and David Wilson added 16 yards on five attempts for New York. They were listed as co-starters on the depth chart as the Giants look to replace Ahmad Bradshaw, who was released in the offseason.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was not impressed with the running games and was particularly disturbed with Brown fumbling a pitchout.

"There's not much to talk about because we didn't do much when it came to running the football," Coughlin said. "We've got to get better at it and we can't have fumbles. Andre never saw the ball. He was looking at the rush, looking at the defense instead of the ball."

Second-round draft pick Le'Veon Bell did not play for Pittsburgh, held out as a precaution because of a minor knee injury. Bell has been the talk of training camp as he had seemingly moved ahead of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, though Redman was listed as No. 1 on the depth chart.

Dwyer had 15 yards on six carries and Redman ran twice for just 7 yards.

Meanwhile, fourth-stringer LaRod Stephens-Howling, signed as a free agent in the offseason from the Arizona Cardinals, ran for 40 yards on seven carries. He is considered more of a change-of-pace back who will likely make his biggest impact in the return game.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he decided not to play Bell after watching him in practice Friday.

"I didn't see enough for me to feel comfortable for him to start his career in less than ideal circumstances from a health standpoint," Tomlin said. "He'll be back on the field the next day we practice and hopefully be ready to go next week. I know that he'll be chomping at the bit to participate."

Both starting quarterbacks were pulled after the first quarter. New York's Eli Manning completed 2 of 5 passes for 73 yards and one touchdown - a 57-yard strike to Victor Cruz -- and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger was 4 of 8 for 36 yards.

The Giants scored on both of Manning's drives.

"You have to be pleased about going 2-for-2, especially in the first game of the preseason," Manning said. "I thought it went pretty well. That first preseason game is always a little different. You realize the defense can hit you and it's not like practice, so the game speeds up a little."

The Steelers have introduced a zone blocking scheme under new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. and Roethlisberger was pleased with how the line performance.

"I thought we came out and ran the ball well," Roethlisberger said. "I thought the line did a good job of opening the holes and the zone blocking that everyone has stressed. I thought LaRod Stephens-Howling did a great job of hitting the holes as well as Isaac Redman. We wanted to establish and identity of running the ball."

Josh Brown connected on three of four field goal attempts for the Giants as he takes over as the kicker for Lawrence Tynes. Brown's 47-yarder with 4:32 left sealed the win.

"It was good to see him make a big kick," Coughlin said. "That made a big difference because it made the Steelers have to score a touchdown in order to beat us and we held them off."

Steelers rookie quarterback Landry Jones had a forgettable first play that resulted in the Giants scoring a safety with 11:50 in the third quarter to increase their lead to 15-6. Jones collided with running back Baron Batch while attempting a handoff, fell on the ball in the end zone and was covered by safety Tyler Sash.

Pittsburgh scored its only touchdown as a direct result of a Giants mistake. A high snap from Matt McCants sailed over quarterback Ryan Nassib's head and Adrian Robinson fell on it in the end zone but the Steelers did not get closer than 15-13.

Manning and Cruz connected on their touchdown with 1:10 left in the first quarter and Brown kicked field goals of 23 and 30 yards as the Giants took a 13-6 halftime lead. The Steelers' Shaun Suisham had a pair of field goals, from 34 and 41 yards.

NOTES: Giants WR Kris Adams suffered a fractured right leg in the third quarter and G Chris DeGeare was carter off a few moments later with a torn knee ligament. ... Among those who sat out for the New York were WR Hakeem Nicks (groin) and DE Jason-Pierre Paul (back). ... Pittsburgh LB Stevenson Sylvester (ankle) left the game in the second quarter and did not return. ... Steelers LB Jarvis Jones, their first-round draft pick, recovered Brown's fumble. ... The Giants host Indianapolis on Aug. 17 and the Steelers visit Washington on Aug. 18.
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