David Wilson returns a punt for a first-quarter touchdown during...

David Wilson returns a punt for a first-quarter touchdown during a game against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium. (Dec. 9, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

David Wilson is looking forward to avoiding contact when the Giants face the Steelers in Saturday night's preseason opener in Pittsburgh. But what the coaching staff really wants to see is the running back initiating it.

They know Wilson can run and dart and juke. Now he has to prove to them that he can block. If Wilson can't help keep Eli Manning on his feet this season, he won't get as many chances to carry the ball and make all of those spectacular things that sometimes end with a back flip in the end zone happen.

Hardly anyone can catch No. 22 when he's on the run, but getting him there presents the Giants a Catch-22 of their own.

No one knows if Wilson can be a good pass protector because he hasn't had a chance to do it much against actual opponents. Yet there is a hesitation to have him do it against actual opponents -- particularly with Manning standing behind him -- until he can prove he can do it.

The answer to that conundrum, one of the biggest facing the Giants this preseason, might begin to emerge Saturday night.

"We're looking forward to that," running backs coach Jerald Ingram said. "We don't have a true blitz drill here, and that's the kind of thing where he needs more physical work and that kind of thing. But playing against a physical team such as Pittsburgh will be a very good test for him. We're going to try and put him in as many situations as we can."

Manning's protection already will be at a disadvantage with third-stringer Brandon Mosley starting at right guard in place of Chris Snee (hip) and James Brewer (concussion). Now he'll also have the unproven Wilson there as a bodyguard after having pit bull Ahmad Bradshaw flanking him for the last few years.


Ingram, though, has a feeling that Wilson will be up to the task. He said a lot of pass protection is summed up in two words: Want to.

"There are a lot of examples of guys that have done it," Ingram said. "That's where I have to do a better job of showing David and creating that 'want to' and that technique, and the more he actually gets a chance to actually hit somebody, the better he'll get. You only get better at doing. You can't get better at not having an opportunity to actually hit somebody. So we're going to give him as many hits and opportunities as we can."

Does the 5-10, 205-pound Wilson have the "want to"?

"I think the 'want to' is there," Ingram said. "I won't say he's afraid to in any way. Not at all. The guy has got courage. He just has to learn how to."

Notes & quotes:RB Michael Cox has been working as a kickoff returner and said he'd like to embrace that job. "I feel pretty comfortable doing it," he said. "I don't really have any issues with that. I know all the plays. Hopefully I go back there and return some kicks." . . . S Ryan Mundy played four seasons for the Steelers before signing with the Giants as a free agent and said he is excited to return to Heinz Field as well as his hometown. The last time he was in the visiting locker room there was when he and Woodland Hills High School played a district championship game at the stadium . . . The preseason series between the Giants and Steelers is tied at 13 wins each, but the Giants' last preseason win in Pittsburgh was on Sept. 5, 1987.

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