(Sports Network) – The New York Giants will be without their bloodied leader when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers in preseason action on Saturday night, but the presence of the opposing team’s signal-caller that was bound to garner most of the attention anyway.
On a night when Eli Manning and the three-inch head laceration he suffered against the Jets on Monday will get a rest, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will take the field for the first time since his troubled and much-publicized offseason.
Roethlisberger made headlines of an unwanted kind in March, when a 20-year-old college student accused the quarterback of raping her in a bathroom at a Milledgeville, GA bar. No charges were filed against Roethlisberger, but the allegations and surrounding controversy led the NFL to suspend him for six games as a result of his violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. Roethlisberger could have his suspension dropped to four games if he complies with certain provisions set forth by the commissioner.
Roethlisberger was eligible to play in last week’s 23-7 win over the Lions last week but did not appear.
Byron Leftwich, who is expected to start Week 1, completed 6-of-10 passes for 43 yards before yielding to Dennis Dixon (6-of-7, 128 yards, 1 TD) and Charlie Batch (1-of-2, 10 yards).
It is unknown how much Roethlisberger will play versus the Giants.
What is clear, however, is that Manning will not appear on Saturday. Though the former No. 1 overall pick has been cleared for non-contact drills in practice, Manning cannot put on a helmet due to his injury. He was injured after his un-helmeted head made contact with Jets safety Jim Leonhard’s facemask in the Giants’ 31-16 win on Monday night.
Complicating matters for the G-Men is that backup Jim Sorgi is nursing a sore shoulder, and is unavailable for Saturday. With Sorgi out, third-stringer Rhett Bomar and recently signed former Holy Cross star Dominic Randolph will likely get all of the snaps.
Another big story for the Giants will be the play of undrafted rookie free agent Victor Cruz, who lit up the Jets for six catches, 145 yards and three touchdowns on Monday, and will continue in his pursuit to make the team.
The Giants hold a 13-12 edge in their all-time preseason series with the Steelers, though Pittsburgh took a 23-17 road decision in the last such meeting, prior to the 1993 season.
The teams last met in meaningful play in 2008, a 21-14 Giants win at Heinz Field.