Cruz, Eli pick up where they left off

PITTSBURGH –- Victor Cruz spent the majority of his offseason away from the New York Giants' practice facility, due to contract negotiations.

Cruz never stopped working out -- but he wasn't catching passes from Eli Manning, either. On Saturday, in the Giants' preseason opener at Pittsburgh, Cruz and Manning made it look like they never missed a single offseason practice together.

On a third-and-4 from the Giants' 43, Cruz ran down the seam of the Steelers' defense, past the secondary and caught a 57-yard touchdown pass from Manning near the end of the first quarter to propel the Giants toward an 18-13 win.

Cruz celebrated with an abbreviated version of his trademark salsa dance. The real dance is reserved for the regular season.

"Just did one or two steps," Cruz explained. "Didn't want to give it the full gamut just yet because it is the preseason. [But] the Salsa is still going strong."

Cruz certainly showed that on his touchdown catch. He got past William Gay and slipped by Pittsburgh safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark on the way to the end zone.

Even though it was his only catch of the night, Cruz showed that he has not missed a beat with Manning despite the receiver's absence from OTAs and minicamp.

"You kind of feel good, and you kind of feel like you are still in the swing of it," he said of his touchdown catch. "It felt good for me and Eli to be on the same page. He read my body [language] perfectly, and the ball was placed right where it needed to be.

"It feels good to kind of be in, I guess, somewhat midseason form so early on."

Cruz, 26, is entering his third season as a starter. He has had at least 82 catches, 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns receiving in the past two seasons.

After months of stalled negotiations, Cruz came to terms with the Giants on a six-year, $45.879 million contract. Despite the new contract, Cruz didn't feel any added pressure to prove that he's worth the money.

"It didn't really feel any different," Cruz said of playing with the new contract. "This time, it was relaxed. I didn't feel any pressure. I didn't feel like I had to go prove something. I felt like I was out there playing my game."

Manning certainly hopes there will be more big plays to come with Cruz.

"We've hooked up on a lot of passes over the years," Manning said. "So it's good to get off to a good start. It's good to know that we can get back to making plays when we need to."

Cruz never felt he had to make up for lost time from the missed practice sessions earlier this offseason.

"Me and Eli just have such a great rapport that we can go out there and I'll be on the same page," Cruz said. "He can tell me what he is thinking and I can apply it."