Former Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley ran into a buzz saw Monday night, submitting a historically poor performance in the Giants’ Week 1 loss to Pittsburgh. Outside of a hurdling, 38-yard catch-and-run, Barkley was stonewalled by the Steelers’ smothering defense, struggling to find breathing room as Pittsburgh stacked the box against the third-year ball-carrier out of Penn State.
With the vaunted trio of T.J. Watt, Cameron Hayward and Bud Dupree overpowering New York’s porous O line, Barkley capped his night from hell with a dismal six yards on 15 rushing attempts, averaging an anemic 0.4 yards per carry with a long run of only seven yards. In addition to getting his bell rung at every turn, Barkley made some unwanted history in the Meadowlands, compiling the second-fewest rushing yards of any player to log 15-plus carries since the NFL merger in 1970.
As alluded to by ESPN, Monday also represented the second-lowest rushing total of Barkley’s career to this point—the Jets held him to a single yard on 13 backfield totes in Week 10 last season. The 23-year-old went to the break Monday night with negative yardage, needing a nine-yard second half just to finish in the black. As astute Twitter users were quick to point out, Barkley rushed for fewer yards than 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger (he of 2.9 career yards per carry) and his Steelers counterpart James Conner, who was hobbled by an ankle injury (15 snaps).
While fantasy players heavily invested in Barkley couldn’t have been thrilled with his Monday night meltdown, they probably should have seen it coming. Only two teams—the Buccaneers and Jets (whom Barkley also struggled against)—were stingier than Pittsburgh against the run last year (3.8 yards per carry). The G-Men had anticipated better line play this year, particularly after using a first-round pick on Georgia standout Andrew Thomas, but after yielding three sacks and struggling to open up rushing lanes for Barkley Monday at an empty Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, it’s clear this remade unit still has some major kinks to work out.
Barkley will try to make his Week 1 futility a distant memory when he takes the field Sunday in Chicago against the 1-0 Bears, who won their opener in thrilling fashion by overcoming a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit at Detroit.