Giant LB Pierce will be game-time decision vs. Steelers

Updated: October 23, 2008, 6:52 PM ET
Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Spending a game walking the sidelines with coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was more than enough for Antonio Pierce.

Less than a week after being sidelined by a quad injury, the New York Giants' middle linebacker has practiced without restrictions the past two days and appears ready for Sunday's showdown with the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

"Sitting next to Spags and Coughlin is not entertaining at all," Pierce said Thursday. "I don't know what is entertaining to those guys, but not entertaining enough to get me to sit next to them. To be able to practice and go out there and be with the guys again is always fun.

"When you are not out there, you kind of feel like you are not part of the team, so that is the toughest thing about when you are injured and you can't practice or play," said the eight-year veteran who leads the Giants (5-1) in tackles.

Pierce will be a game-time decision Sunday, but admitted he's feeling much better.

His status seems less iffy than receiver Plaxico Burress, who missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday with a sore shoulder and a stiff neck.

Coughlin said that X-rays and an MRI on Thursday found no structural problems.

"We will see how he does tomorrow," he said.

Burress did not talk to reporters after practice.

Pierce was much more accommodating. He said he woke up this past Sunday and felt that he would be able to play against the San Francisco 49ers at Giants Stadium. The coaches and the training staff vetoed the idea, leaving Pierce to act as another coach on the sidelines.

"I am always coaching every Sunday," said Pierce, who acts like a traffic cop during games, adjusting the defensive calls before snaps, telling players where to go while seemingly talking to the opposing quarterback.

When he wasn't following Coughlin and Spagnuolo on Sunday, Pierce was talking with Chase Blackburn, his replacement, and rookie Bryan Kehl, who was starting at weakside linebacker with Gerris Wilkinson injured.

"In a lot of ways, I could probably hand him the game plan and let him call it," Spagnuolo said. "He is that good. I think all the other guys that play around him know that, so there is a lot of confidence and a lot of comfort."

Pierce, who originally hurt his quad against Seattle on Oct. 5 and aggravated it the next week against Cleveland, is looking forward to Sunday's game between the division leaders in the NFC East and the AFC North.

"I don't know what a big game is. A big game is the Super Bowl," Pierce said. "For us this is another game, we are playing the Steelers, we are excited, they are a 5-1 team, they are physical, they have a good defense, a great offense, so it is going to be a challenge. I think if anything it is going to be a challenge to us both physically and mentally so we are excited to be out there ready to play."

Pierce said the Giants not only need to pressure Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but they have to go after his arms. Too many teams go after his legs and upper body and the big quarterback brushes them aside.

"I think it is going to be one of those matches where you watch a great boxing match, where you have two fighters that are going to stand in the middle of the ring," Pierce said. "That is what we expect from them and I hope that is what we go in there expecting to do."

The only thing that seemed to get Pierce upright was the suggestion that the Giants were finally playing a good team. The Super Bowl champions have beaten only one team with a better than .500 record this season.

"This is a team that beat the St. Louis Rams, who beat the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, so to answer that question, we have faced every NFL team, we haven't played a Pop Warner team, we haven't played a junior college team," he said. "I mean Rutgers is very good, but we haven't even played Rutgers yet, so there is no such thing as a real team or a real game. We are facing NFL teams and those teams have been strong."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE