Published January 13, 2015
So much for Victor Cruz's holdout harming his chemistry with Eli Manning.
The New York Giants' wide receiver — who missed organized team activities and minicamp while trying to hammer out a new deal — still has some of the fleetest feet in the NFL. Some of the fanciest too.
Cruz hauled in a 57-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning in Saturday night's 18-13 win over Pittsburgh in the teams' preseason opener, though Cruz eschewed his traditional salsa celebration dance. Two half-hearted steps and Cruz gave up, figuring it's best to save the good stuff for when it counts in September.
And judging by how quickly Manning and Cruz were able to re-establish their "go deep and I'll chuck it to you" rapport, Cruz could have plenty of chances to tear up the dance floor this season.
"Anytime that happens, we're over there cheering," New York coach Tom Coughlin said.
Not that there was much more to get fired up about for either team during an otherwise lethargic 60 minutes that left both teams with plenty to work on.
Here are five things we learned from the game:
1. JARVIS JONES CAN FIND THE BALL: The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker and heir apparent to the departed James Harrison has been a revelation during training camp.
The 17th overall pick in the draft has consistently found a way to get his hands on the ball, particularly in pass coverage. He managed to do it on Saturday night by keeping his head up when New York quarterback David Carr and running back Andre Brown botched a handoff in the second quarter. Jones raced in from across the field to land on it and give the Steelers good field position.
"The guys on the sideline told me I should have picked it up and ran," Jones said. "That was a learning curve for me too. In college I would have been down."
2. VICTOR CRUZ IS FASTER THAN YOU: Cruz beat just anybody during his sprint to the end zone.
Lining up in the slot on third-and-4 at the New York 43, he beat William Gay and an overly aggressive Troy Polamalu then moved to the middle of the field to haul in the perfect rainbow from Manning. The recognition of both quarterback and receiver led to the only real offensive play of consequence.
"(Cruz) just had a basic seam route and read the body language for what he was going to do and (I) threw it out there for him," Manning said. "He made a good play."
3. PITTSBURGH'S SPECIAL TEAMS NEED SOME WORK: The Steelers brought longtime Washington Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith in during the offseason hoping the passionate Smith could stoke some life into a largely blase unit. It's going to take some work.
New York blocked a punt after Pittsburgh's first possession when Damontre Moore came in untouched to smother the punt off the foot of Drew Butler.
Things didn't get much better from there.
Punt returner David Gilreath inexplicably caught a punt inside the Pittsburgh 5 early in the second half. A block in the back penalty put the ball at the Pittsburgh 2 for the first snap of rookie quarterback Landry Jones' career. Jones botched a handoff and New York fell on it for a safety.
Gilreath later let a punt smack off his facemask. The Giants recovered the muff but were unable to score.
4.DAVID WILSON ISN'T IN GEAR YET: The Giants anointed Wilson the starting running back when they decided not to re-sign Ahmad Bradshaw. Facing the NFL's top-ranked defense last season, Wilson showed little during his two series of work.
He managed just 16 yards on five carries. Take away a 9-yard sprint, and his other four carries went a total of 7 yards.
"It wasn't much to talk about," Coughlin said. "I don't know how many chances we had. It wasn't anything great. We played that first offensive line a few more plays than we intended. We'll have to improve in that area no question."
5. GET WELL LE'VEON BELL: The Steelers' rookie running back was held out of the game due to a sore left knee.
Coach Mike Tomlin said the decision was strictly a precaution and he expects Bell to return to practice on Monday.
Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer did little to create any breathing room between themselves and Bell for the starting job. The duo combined for 22 yards on eight carries.
Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP