Class of 2004 quarterbacks clash as Steelers face Giants

Fri Nov 2, 2012 2:41pm EDT

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passes against the New York Jets in the first quarter of their NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Cohn

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passes against the New York Jets in the first quarter of their NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Cohn

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(Reuters) - The New York Giants are playing like defending Super Bowl champions, making a real bid for repeat success but on Sunday they come up against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that also knows about going all the way.

The clash of two of the league's traditional teams at Metlife Stadium should be another fascinating test of the Giants' mettle, after their thrilling win at divisional rivals Dallas last week. It has been given extra piquancy by the contrast between the two quarterbacks who are both from the same draft class.

Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, in their ninth year in the league, both have two Super Bowl rings to their name and while they are vastly different quarterbacks in style they have long drawn comparison after the Giants opted for Manning in the 2004 draft.

New York traded up for Manning who had been taken as first pick overall by the San Diego Chargers while Roethlisberger was taken by Pittsburgh as the 11th pick in the first round.

At times, during some of Manning's more fragile spells, there were those who felt the Giants should have drafted Roethlisberger.

But after engineering two memorable Super Bowl wins for the Giants and becoming the league's specialist at fourth-quarter comebacks, there are not many among the Giants' faithful still with that opinion.

Roethlisberger was clearly a little irked to have been overlooked, however, and while his robust style has brought three Super Bowl appearances, he concedes he was once motivated by a desire to out-do Manning.

"Early on for me, it was more wanting to better than him," Roethlisberger said on a conference call this week.

"I don't want to say animosity but he was the number one pick and I think that as a guy that's not picked number one, when someone is picked ahead of you, you want to beat that guy out," he said.

That feeling has mellowed with time and with Roethlisberger's own success.

"As I've gotten older, it's more neat to see his success because I think it just adds to the legacy of our draft class.

"All four quarterback (from that year) with Matt Schaub and Philip Rivers, myself and Eli, that were drafted I hope we play well enough that one day they talk about us as maybe the best quarterback draft class of all-time," he said.

Manning is considered the better passer of the pair while Roethlisberger is a better runner with the ball and can extend plays by coming out of the pocket.

The Giants (6-2) and their offense come up against the Steelers' top-rated pass defense, which has allowed a mere 182.6 passing yards a game.

The Steelers (4-3), though, will be without safety Troy Polamalu with a calf injury for a fourth consecutive game.

Also on Sunday, the league's only unbeaten team, the Atlanta Falcons (7-0) host the Dallas Cowboys (3-4), who are looking to bounce back from their agonizing 29-24 loss to the Giants.

Monday night's game features the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Michael Vick at the New Orleans Saints.

Vick's role as a starter has been brought into question but he will draw confidence from the fact that the Saints are ranked last in the NFL in overall defense.

Two exciting rookie quarterbacks could face off in Indianapolis where Andrew Luck and the Colts face the Miami Dolphins.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has had a very promising season so far, is hoping to shrug off a knee injury picked up in last week's win at the New York Jets.

(Editing by Gene Cherry)

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