PITTSBURGH (AP)—The New York Giants did little with the exceptional field position the Steelers gave them Sunday. Finally, when it seemed Pittsburgh had too much depth and defense for the Super Bowl champs, the Steelers were tripped up by—of all things—a bad punt snap.
Eli Manning threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss with 3:11 remaining for the Giants’ only touchdown after they tied it several minutes before on a bizarre safety. Linebacker James Harrison’s high snap on the punt gave New York two points, and the Giants held off Pittsburgh for a 21-14 victory in a matchup of division leaders.
The resilient Steelers (5-2), playing with backups all over the field, tried to make up for Ben Roethlisberger’s four interceptions by turning two big-play scores into a lead they preserved with a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter.
But the Giants (6-1) tied it with 6:48 remaining on the safety.
Pro Bowl linebacker Harrison, playing center due to long snapper Greg Warren’s knee injury, snapped the ball over punter Mitch Berger’s head and out of the end zone. It wasn’t certain why Harrison was snapping rather than starting center Justin Hartwig or right guard Darnell Stapleton, a center at Rutgers.
John Carney kicked four field goals for New York, hitting from 26, 35, 25 and 24—an indication of how many times the Giants threatened but couldn’t get the ball into the end zone against the NFL’s top-ranked defense.
Pittsburgh’s snapping predicament came after the Steelers, already playing without injured left tackle Marvel Smith, running back Willie Parker and cornerback Bryant McFadden and suspended wide receiver Santonio Holmes, also lost safety Ryan Clark to an injury.
The Giants got excellent field position—again—after the safety on the ensuing free kick and started at their own 47.
Manning, held in check most of the game while going 19-of-32 for 199 yards, finally took advantage of the tiring and depleted Steelers defense by finding Steve Smith for 25 yards to the 25. Brandon Jacobs followed with an 8-yard run, and Manning hit Plaxico Burress for 8 yards ahead of Derrick Ward’s 7-yard run.
Manning’s TD pass to Boss came on a second-and-2 play. The Steelers got nothing going after that on their final two possessions, with the inefficient Roethlisberger (13-of-29, 189 yards) throwing his fourth and final interception on his last throw.
The Steelers had won their previous nine home games against NFC teams, and Roethlisberger had been 13-3 against the conference, but they couldn’t hold on despite getting two big-play touchdowns from players who normally are backups.
Mewelde Moore, gaining 84 yards for the injured Parker, ran 32 yards for a touchdown on Pittsburgh’s fourth play from scrimmage in the first quarter. After New York punted to start the second half, Roethlisberger found Nate Washington for 65 yards—the backup receiver’s third touchdown in three games—and a 14-9 lead on Pittsburgh’s first play of the second half.
Before that, two Roethlisberger interceptions provided excellent field position for the Giants. New York dominated time of possession in the first half, yet could manage only two Carney field goals during a stretch in which it began successive drives at Pittsburgh’s 42-, 19- and 29-yard lines. Carney added the third of his four field goals late in the second quarter to give New York a 9-7 lead at halftime.