PITTSBURGH – Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz for a 57-yard touchdown pass and the New York Giants beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 18-13 in the preseason opener for both teams Saturday night.
Cruz slipped by William Gay and Troy Polamalu, then outran Ryan Clark to score on his first reception since signing a $43 million contract in the offseason. Manning finished 2 of 5 for 73 yards. The Giants scored on both drives the offensive starters were in the game.
Ben Roethlisberger completed 4 of 8 passes for 36 yards for Pittsburgh, leading the Steelers to a field goal on their second possession. Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones, the 17th overall pick in the draft, recovered a fumble in his professional debut. Running back Le’Veon Bell, the team’s second-round pick, did not play due to a sore left knee.
Cruz is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he established himself as one of the best deep threats in the game. He provided the lone highlight in a game that felt more like an extended scrimmage.
On third-and-4 from the New York 43 late in the first quarter, Cruz lined up in the slot and hauled in a rainbow from Manning. Gay, who returned to Pittsburgh in the offseason after a one-year stint in Arizona, tripped trying to keep up. Polamalu and Clark had no chance and Cruz strolled into the end zone.
The score helped make up for a miserable opening series by Manning and company after a blocked punt by Damontre Moore gave the Giants first-and- goal at the Pittsburgh 5. Three plays produced a run by David Wilson that went nowhere and two incomplete passes.
The Steelers weren’t much sharper. Playing behind a reconstituted offensive line that includes Mike Adams at left tackle barely two months after the second-year tackle was stabbed during a failed carjacking, Roethlisberger was sacked on Pittsburgh’s first possession. He found a bit of a rhythm the next time the Steelers had the ball, leading a 13-play, 58-yard drive that ended with Shaun Suisham’s field goal.
Pittsburgh was hoping to get a look at Bell after the 48th pick in the draft sparkled during the first two weeks of training camp. He was limited during the week after feeling a twinge in the knee, and Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin held Bell out as a precautionary measure.
The two guys fighting Bell for the starting job — Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman — did little to threaten Bell’s bid to walk onto the field with the first string in the season opener against Tennessee on Sept. 8. Redman ran twice for 7 yards, and Dwyer managed 15 yards on six carries.
COLTS-BILLS: Andrew Luck knows what it could be like for EJ. Manuel on Sunday in Indianapolis.
A learning experience.
The first quarterbacks taken in the last two drafts will lead Indianapolis and Buffalo into their preseason opener.
Manuel officially got the starting nod Friday night over the injured Kevin Kolb. Bills Coach Doug Marrone has not said how much the rookie will play.
A year ago, Luck was the face of a major offseason overhaul. Now it’s Manuel’s turn and the two guys who started attending football camps together in high school will now have the opportunity to trade notes in the NFL.
“I’m looking forward to hopefully getting to talk to him a little bit after the game and see how his experience is going,” Luck said.
“We came out of high school the same year, went to a bunch of camps together. I always was very impressed by him and his character. He seemed like a great guy every time I was around him. So I wish the best for him.”
BENGALS: Andrew Hawkins will wear a cast for 10 days to try to heal his sprained left ankle, making it doubtful he’ll be ready for the season opener.
Hawkins was Cincinnati’s second-leading wide receiver last year with 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns. He sprained the ankle during practice on Aug. 1 and was carted off the field.
CHARGERS: Rookie linebacker Manti Te’o will sit out this week with a sprained right foot and miss San Diego’s game at Chicago on Thursday.
Te’o wore a walking boot while watching Saturday’s practice.
BUCCANEERS: Tampa Bay needs a better pass rush, and according to Coach Greg Schiano, that means it needs a better Da’Quan Bowers.
“He wants to be an every-down player and we need an every-down defensive end so we’re just trying to get there,” Schiano said Saturday.
Bowers, a third-year defensive end, was the only Bucs regular to play the entire first half Thursday night in a 44-16 preseason loss to Baltimore. His performance drew mixed reviews from Schiano.
“I felt like I needed it,” Bowers said. “I’m an unproven defensive end in this league. I felt like I needed the extra work. I talked to Coach about it. He agreed, I agreed so we came up with a plan.”