EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 18 -- Eli Manning, for the first time, played something like the once-in-a-generation quarterback prospect the New York Giants thought they were getting when they traded for him on draft day. But Ben Roethlisberger again stole the spotlight, posting his first 300-yard passing game as a pro and remaining unbeaten as an NFL starter by leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 33-30 triumph Saturday at Giants Stadium.
"Our defense has been carrying us all year,'' said Roethlisberger, who threw two interceptions but completed 18 of 28 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown. "I said to our offense, 'It's about time for us to carry the load a little bit. If we have to get into a shootout, then let's score every time we have the ball.' "
Rookie quarterbacks Eli Manning (182 yards, 2 TDs) of the Giants and Ben Roethlisberger (316 yards, 2 TDs) of the Steelers converse after the game.
(Shannon Stapleton -- Reuters)
The Steelers won their 12th straight game -- a team record -- since Roethlisberger took over as their starter and improved their record to 13-1, staying in front of the New England Patriots in the race for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Giants (5-9) had their losing streak extended to seven games. They're 0-5 since Coach Tom Coughlin benched veteran Kurt Warner and turned to Manning, the top overall choice in April's draft.
But Manning had, by far, his best game as a pro Saturday, connecting on 16 of 23 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns against the league's top-ranked defense.
"He was a lot more poised today,'' Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "He handled every situation. We know he's a good quarterback. He's going to be a great one in this league. We tried to take advantage of him. We just couldn't do it."
Said another Pittsburgh linebacker, Joey Porter: "There's nothing bad I can say about the kid because he did play well. But we still came away with the victory."
Manning's solid showing came at the end of a week in which he asked Coughlin to pare down the playbook and stick to those plays with which he was comfortable, and it kept him from being embarrassed in his first career meeting with the quarterback drafted 10 spots behind him in April.
"Losing is losing," Manning said. "It's never fun. But you compete, you score some points, you hang in there and have a chance to win in the fourth quarter against a good team, you feel better. . . . It's a starting point."
The Giants got a 91-yard touchdown return by Willie Ponder on the game's opening kickoff. Manning threw touchdowns of two yards to tight end Jeremy Shockey in the first quarter and one yard to reserve tight end Marcellus Rivers late in the third quarter, and tailback Tiki Barber's one-yard touchdown run gave the Giants a 30-26 lead with just more than eight minutes to play.
Roethlisberger, though, responded with a 36-yard completion to wideout Antwaan Randle El to set up Jerome Bettis's one-yard touchdown run with 4 minutes 57 seconds left. The Giants' final drive ended when Manning threw his only interception of the day on a deep pass that was grabbed by Steelers cornerback Willie Williams after his feet got tangled with those of wide receiver Amani Toomer, knocking down Toomer. The Giants wanted a pass-interference call but didn't get it, and the Steelers got two first downs and ran out the clock.
Bettis produced his fifth 100-yard rushing performance of the season, with 140 yards on 36 carries.