EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Sometimes, real life intrudes on the games we play. And sometimes, we need those games to get away from real life.
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy and the destruction it brought to the Northeast, everyone on the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants understood that.
‘‘There are so many bigger things going on around here that what we do is not as important as real life,’’ Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Sunday after throwing for two touchdowns in a 24-20 comeback victory.
‘‘My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone else who are going through so much. There were so many emotions going on, I didn’t know what to expect from it. But maybe we were able to take their minds off their problems just a little.’’
That’s all the local fans sought: temporary relief, and the Giants (6-3) provided it for a while. But they couldn’t stop Isaac Redman, who had little relief with Pittsburgh’s other two main backs injured, yet rushed for a career-best 147 yards and the winning 1-yard touchdown with 4:02 to go.
Overcoming unusual sloppiness, the Steelers (5-3) dominated the second half.
They did so after they arrived in New Jersey hours before the game, which might have accounted for their carelessness. They had the fewest giveaways in the NFL entering the game, but were neglectful with the ball and in pass coverage; cornerback Keenan Lewis had 87 yards on two pass interference penalties. They wasted some great kick returns, too.
The Steelers’ long day began with a plane ride to New Jersey, a short side trip to their team hotel — they couldn’t get enough rooms to stay in the area on Saturday night and needed a league travel waiver to arrive on game day — then on to the stadium. Outside, folks tailgated and tried to blunt some of the devastation from the week’s storm.
‘‘Coming in the day of the game was tough and we had to deal with that adversity,’’ Redman said. ‘‘But the Giants had to deal with adversity all week. We just had to come in here and be ready to play.”
MetLife Stadium was packed despite the difficulties caused by a lack of power in many homes, long gas lines, and, of course, severe damage throughout the region.
‘‘That’s as disappointing a loss as we've had in a long time,’’ Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. ‘‘Not to be overly reactionary or emotional, to play against a very good football team like that . . . we wanted emotionally to win the game so badly for obvious reasons, for our neighbors who are struggling, who needed some type of inspiration and we didn’t provide it.’’
The Giants saw their four-game winning streak end. They seemed in control as Michael Boley sprinted 70 yards with a fumble recovery in the second quarter.
Roethlisberger cocked his arm to throw and defensive end Osi Umenyiora hit it. The ball came loose and while the quarterback signaled that his arm was coming forward, Boley sped down the right sideline for the score. Video replay upheld the touchdown for a 14-7 New York lead.
Eli Manning threw for only 125 yards in one of the worst games of his Giants career. Ike Taylor’s interception set up Pittsburgh’s 58-yard touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead.
Mike Wallace’s weaving dash across half the field for a 51-yard score pulled Pittsburgh within 20-17.
“We had a lot riding on the game,’’ Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck said.