The most attractive selling point for Saturday's matchup between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers on NFL Network was a chance to see how the backfield distribution is breaking down for each team.
NFL fans were robbed a chance to see the favorite for the Steelers' starting job when second-round draft pick Le'Veon Bell was declared inactive with what team president Art Rooney described as stiffness in his knee. Coach Mike Tomlin downplayed the injury, telling the local telecast that Bell will be fine, according to NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala.
Coordinator Todd Haley wants the rookie to prove he can stay on the field and play through these types of injuries, but there's no reason for the team to take chances in a preseason game. The Steelers' kid-glove approach toward such a minor injury shows how valuable Bell is to the team's offense this season.
Here's what we learned from the Giants' 18-13 victory over the Steelers:
1. With Bell in street clothes, Isaac Redman drew the start at running back. LaRod Stephens-Howling was the most impressive of the Steelers' backs, however, rushing seven times for 40 yards in a committee attack. Clearly behind Redman and Stephens-Howling, a slimmed-down Jonathan Dwyer could join Green Bay Packers tailback Alex Green on the "conditional late-round pick" trade market.
2. Veteran Jerricho Cotchery entered as the Steelers' third receiver, but it won't be long before more explosive third-round pick Markus Wheaton leapfrogs him. Wheaton was robbed of a fantastic sideline catch by replay review, only to come back with a diving reception in traffic.
4. First-round pick Jarvis Jones didn't play with the starters, but the pass rusher did come through with a big third-down stop to force a punt late in the third quarter.
5. David Wilson appears to be the Giants' primary early-down running back. Saturday's game suggests he's trusted near the goal line, but not as a pass protector. Andre Brown routinely replaced Wilson on third downs. Although Wilson has a reputation for shaky ball security, it was Brown who fumbled a pitch into the Steelers' hands. Wilson didn't have much room to run, but he showed well in picking up Lawrence Timmons on a blitz and consoling Brown after the muffed pitch.
6. The Eli Manning-to-Victor Cruz connection is in fine form, as the two hooked up on a "Heinz" 57-yard touchdown. Starting in place of Hakeem Nicks, No. 3 receiver Reuben Randle was relatively quiet after a sparkling first two weeks of camp.
7. Competing for a roster spot, Giants wide receiver Kris Adams went down with a nasty lower leg injury that was later announced as a fracture. His season is almost certainly over.
8. Rookie quarterback Ryan Nassib's preseason couldn't have gotten off to a shakier start. The fourth-rounder's first series included a false start, sack, delay of game penalty and a bad snap that was fumbled into the end zone for the Steelers' lone touchdown.The Around The League Podcast is now available on iTunes! Click here to listen and subscribe.