PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have dished the flash of September for a decidedly more pragmatic approach in December.
Heavy doses of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
A dash of tight end Ladarius Green.
A defense that looks competent and maybe even a bit dangerous.
The Steelers will gladly sacrifice the style points for the substance they showed in a 24-14 win over the New York Giants on Sunday.
The result emphatically ended New York’s six-game winning streak and sent a message that Pittsburgh’s midseason funk appears to be firmly in the rearview mirror.
“I just think we’re finding our rhythm,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after his team allowed just 234 yards and picked off Eli Manning twice.
“I think we’re gaining continuity with the mix of guys who are playing. The young guys are growing up.”
A pivotal development for the Steelers (7-5), who have won three straight, each one a step up in class.
Two weeks ago it was a simple slump-buster in Cleveland.
On Thanksgiving, it was a decisive victory on the road in Indianapolis, albeit against a backup quarterback.
This time it was one of the league’s hottest teams, though New York (8-4) hardly looked like it at times while spoiling first-year coach Ben McAdoo’s homecoming.
McAdoo grew up an hour east of Heinz Field in Homer City, Pennsylvania. The team he faced on Sunday looked a bit like the one he idolized as a kid.
The Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage at times behind Bell’s 182 yards of total offense and prevented Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from ever really getting comfortable.
“We are who we are right now,” McAdoo said. “We need to go back to work. You can’t just flip a switch and have things change.”
The Steelers have reinvented themselves on the fly following a four-game slide that took all the shine off their high-flying 4-1 start.
Rather than try to overwhelm opponents with firepower they have put the ball in Bell’s hands and let him lead the way.
Bell touched the ball 35 times — 29 rushes and six receptions — and went over 100 yards rushing for the third straight game by churning for 118.
He did so against a defense that hadn’t allowed an opponent to reach the century mark since Adrian Peterson in Week 16 of last season.
“I just wanted to make sure that I kept running hard,” Bell said. “Then, in the fourth quarter, holes got a little bigger.”
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 289 yards and two touchdowns for Pittsburgh and Brown caught six passes for 54 yards, including an acrobatic scoring grab in the back of the end zone that put the Steelers up 11-0.
“It’s that time of year that we have to be our best self, offense, defense, special teams,” Roethlisberger said. “Everybody needs to just do their job, and I thought they did that tonight.”
Pittsburgh splurged in free agency on Green, hoping the 6-foot-6 tight end could fill the void left by Heath Miller’s retirement.
After a shaky start in which Green spent the first two months of the season recovering from various health concerns, he’s starting to look like money well earned. Green caught six passes for 110 yards and his first touchdown of the season .
“I’m not close to where I thought I would be, but I’m getting closer,” Green said. “I’m building a little more confidence every game.”
Beckham won the statistical battle with his good buddy Brown, catching 10 passes for 100 yards.
Yet Beckham was baffled by an exchange with an unspecified official after he drew an offensive pass interference flag in the first quarter, a call that eventually set up a Pittsburgh safety. Beckham said when he approached the official for clarity on why the call was made, he was told “get out of my face.”
“I don’t really understand that,” Beckham said. “That’s not really how I was raised.”
Giants: Played the second half without defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who left in the second quarter with a groin injury. Pierre-Paul said afterward he’s not sure of the severity of the injury and will be examined on Monday. New York also lost cornerback Coty Sensabaugh to a rib injury.
Steelers: Rookie nose tackle Javon Hargrave left in the first half because of a concussion. Safety Shamarko Thomas, recently recovered from a groin injury, sustained a concussion while covering a kickoff return in the first half.
Giants: host NFC East-leading Dallas next Sunday night. New York beat the Cowboys 20-19 in Week 1. Dallas has not lost since.
Steelers: head north to Buffalo next Sunday.