The Pittsburgh Steelers, stretched thin by injuries and their own mistakes, repeatedly kept the New York Giants out of their end zone. A game the Steelers were controlling turned dramatically when they couldn't stay out of that end zone themselves.
Eli Manning threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss with 3:11 remaining for the Giants' only touchdown after they tied it several minutes before on a bizarre safety.
Emergency snapper James Harrison snapped the ball out of the end zone to give New York the pivotal two points, and the Giants rallied to beat Pittsburgh for a 21-14 victory Sunday in a matchup of division leaders.
The resilient Steelers (5-2), playing with backups all over the field, tried to make up for Ben Roethlisberger's four interceptions and five sacks by turning two big-play scores into a 14-12 lead they preserved with a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter.
The Super Bowl champion Giants (6-1) tied it with 6:48 remaining when Pro Bowl linebacker Harrison, playing center due to long snapper Greg Warren's torn anterior cruciate ligament, centered the ball over punter Mitch Berger's head.
"Nobody has two long snappers on their team; what you have are emergency snappers," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "James Harrison is regarded as the lead candidate. We got some snaps on the sideline and we felt comfortable.... We just weren't able to get it done. That was the first game I have been involved in that we didn't have a snapper."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin knew Pittsburgh was without a snapper, saying, "That's why we brought the pressure. I don't know if it disturbed them, but the snap was high."
The snapping predicament came shortly after the Steelers, already playing without injured left tackle Marvel Smith, left guard Kendall Simmons, running back Willie Parker and cornerback Bryant McFadden and suspended wide receiver Santonio Holmes, lost safety Ryan Clark (dislocated right shoulder) during the physical game.
"I was nervous about snapping for the first time in a game," Harrison said. "But my feeling was that even if I shot it over his head, we still had a chance to stop them."
John Carney kicked four field goals for New York, hitting from 26, 35, 25 and 24 -- an indication of how many times the Giants threatened but couldn't get into the end zone against the NFL's top-ranked defense until Boss scored.
"You want situations where they kind of have you in a corner and you have to come out swinging," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Obviously, we responded pretty well. ... Guys really understand what it takes to win in situations like this."
Manning, held in check most of the game while going 19-of-32 for 199 yards, finally took advantage of the tiring and depleted Steelers defense by finding Steve Smith for 25 yards to the 25 on the decisive drive.
Brandon Jacobs followed with an 8-yard run, and Manning hit Plaxico Burress for 8 yards ahead of Derrick Ward's 7-yard run. The TD pass to Boss came on a second-and-2 play.
"Things weren't going well at times and it's easy to get frustrated, but we didn't," Manning said. "We hung in there tough and found a way to win. Getting frustrated is not going to fix anything. Sometimes you've got to take the field goals and hope that the defense will keep playing tough."
The Steelers had won their previous nine home games against NFC teams, and Roethlisberger (13-of-29, 189 yards) had been 13-3 against the conference, but Pittsburgh couldn't hold on despite getting two big-play touchdowns from backups.
Mewelde Moore, gaining 84 yards for the injured Parker, scored on a 32-yard run on Pittsburgh's fourth play from scrimmage in the first quarter. Roethlisberger later found Nate Washington for 65 yards -- the backup receiver's third touchdown in three games -- and a 14-9 lead on Pittsburgh's first play of the second half.
"But it's disappointing, and it starts with me," Roethlisberger said.
New York dominated the time of possession in the first half, yet managed only two Carney field goals during a stretch in which it began successive drives at Pittsburgh's 42-, 19- and 29-yard lines.
"They're maybe the best defense in football right now," Burress said. "I have a lot of respect for those guys, we all do. We kind of knew it was going to be a slugfest."