PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Ben Roethlisberger likened tight end Ladarius Green to a Ferrari shortly after the Pittsburgh Steelers signed the tight end to a lucrative four-year contract, a rare open-market splurge by the typically free-agent averse club.
For months, the Ferrari remained up on blocks as Green went through a slow, methodical rehab from offseason ankle surgery that forced him to spend the first two months of the season on the physically unable to perform list. No matter. Healthy at last, Green is in the process of answering all the questions about his ability with one exclamation-point catch after another.
The latest display came in a 24-14 win over the New York Giants on Sunday . Green hauled in a career-high six receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown as Pittsburgh (7-5) won its third straight.
“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. The team is still believing in me. They keep pushing me. So, it’s just, everything is better.”
Looks like it. Since making his debut against Dallas last month, Green is averaging 18.8 yards per catch and looking very much like the potent downfield threat Pittsburgh envisioned when it tabbed him to replace the retired Heath Miller.
“Having your health is one thing, being football ready is another,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “He’s getting up to speed. He’s finding a comfortable seat on a moving train. And we need him to.”
If Green can continue to take positive steps forward, it will give Roethlisberger another target instead of relying so heavily on running back Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, though the two stars hardly looked overworked while combining for 236 of Pittsburgh’s 389 total yards.
Bell finished with 118 yards rushing, the first back to go over 100 against the Giants (8-4) since Adrian Peterson in Week 16 of last season, and added six catches for another 64 yards. Brown made a spectacular grab at the back of the end zone for his 11th touchdown reception of the season and the 49th in his career from Roethlisberger to move into a tie with Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann for the most prolific wide receiver/quarterback combo in team history.
The Steelers ran it 36 times and passed it 36 times, a nod toward the style of play they want to utilize in what Tomlin calls “December Football.”
“It’s the 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.”
The Giants (8-4) saw their six-game winning streak come to an abrupt half by managing all of 234 total yards, with 52 of those coming on a meaningless last-gasp drive in garbage time. Manning completed 24 of 39 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of picks, both near the Pittsburgh goal line. New York also failed to convert a fourth-and-goal in the third quarter when trailing by 14.
“It really came down to those two red-zone trips,” Manning said. “We had no points off of it. … We have been really good scoring touchdowns lately, the last two or three games we have been 100 percent scoring touchdowns, but not today.”
While Odell Beckham Jr. hauled in 10 passes for 100 yards and was targeted 16 times in all, Manning didn’t throw Victor Cruz’s way once. It’s the second time this season Cruz was not targeted at all by Manning.
“I’m going to talk to somebody,” Cruz said. “Somebody’s got to give me an answer as to why (I didn’t get the ball).”
New York defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a groin injury late in the first half and did not return. He said afterward he’s not sure how severe the injury is and will get re-examined Monday.
“It was frustrating,” said Pierre-Paul, whose seven sacks lead the team. “Especially when I’m sitting out. It (stinks) just watching in the locker room, but it is what it is.”
Pittsburgh rookie nose tackle Javon Hargrave and safety Shamarko Thomas both entered the concussion protocol and missed the second half.
Giants: Will try to prevent NFC East-leading Dallas from clinching the division next week when they host the Cowboys. New York is the only team to beat Dallas this season.
Pittsburgh: Heads north to Buffalo looking for a fourth straight victory. The Steelers haven’t lost to Buffalo since 1999.