The Pittsburgh Steelers will face one of their toughest opponents of the year this week when they travel to Houston to face the Texans.
With plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, the Texans will provide a stiff challenge for the Steelers.
Houston is the second of a four-game stretch against AFC South opponents and following their close call in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh will want make a statement against a much tougher Texans team.
That task may not be so easy, as the Steelers have to shut down Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, one of the most accomplished quarterback-wide receiver duos in the league.
The Texans have quite a pass-rusher in Antonio Smith this year, who already has three sacks. Houston will most certainly try to take advantage of the Steelers injuries at tackle.
A loss would drop the Steelers to 2-2, a spot they do not want to be this early in the season.
This is a possibility unless Pittsburgh makes major improvements to several areas of their game.
Here are the keys to getting a win over the Houston Texans.
Andre Johnson is recognized as one of the top two receivers in the league and for good reason.
He already has 21 receptions for 316 yards and two touchdowns and has potential to add a lot more on Sunday.
Houston is by far the best offense that the Steelers have faced this season and their inability to stop the run could mean that Ben Tate and Arian Foster combine for a big day.
That would also mean that the passing game would open up. Luckily for the Steelers, Ike Taylor is one of the few big money players who are playing up to their contract.
Taylor will almost certainly shadow Johnson and for good reason. Taylor is the Steelers most physical corner and has the size and speed to match up against Johnson.
Over the first three weeks of the season, Taylor has only allowed three receptions for 18 yards while covering the likes of Lee Evans, Mike Williams and Reggie Wayne. However, he has not faced a quarterback like Schaub.
Regardless, if Taylor does his job, the defense can focus on getting back to their roots of stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.
Pittsburgh has one forced turnover this year and it was a big one. James Harrison's sack and forced fumble was recovered by Troy Polamalu for the game-winning touchdown.
Beyond that the Steelers have been unable to create turnovers. While less than ideal, this problem would be masked if not for Ben Roethlisberger being a turnover machine.
Roethlisberger already has eight turnovers, four interceptions and four fumbles, while the team has a total of 10 turnovers.
For the season they have a turnover ratio of minus-nine and it was a major influence in their loss to Baltimore and was why Indianapolis was able to keep the game close last Sunday.
Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians can change up the offense, especially with a banged up offensive line, to include shorter passes and safe throws to the backs and tight ends.
This would reduce the amount of times that Roethlisberger holds onto the ball for too long, as he has been making too many mistakes this season.
Besides the lack of turnovers, Pittsburgh’s defense has been unable to get to the quarterback.
LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are not getting consistent pressure and Lawrence Timmons has yet to record a sack.
The skill of the Texans’ offense can be limited through pressuring of not only the quarterback, but also the ground game.
Indianapolis was constantly pressuring the line, closing run lanes virtually immediately turning the Steelers into a one-dimensional team.
Pittsburgh needs to do the same against the Texans as well as force them into mistakes.
It is safe to say that Houston will be able to score its fair share of points, so rather than sit back, Pittsburgh needs to dictate the tempo of the game by attacking the Texans.
There is no spotlight player on offense this week. Instead it is Bruce Arians.
Indianapolis is noted for their small size but quickness on defense. So what do the Steelers do? They run long developing run and pass plays.
That is playing right into your own weakness along the offensive line and right into the Colts strength.
This week Arians can redeem himself with quick developing run plays as well as using the power running style of Isaac Redman.
The Steelers also have a talented group of young receivers who are outstanding running after the catch. Taking advantage of this strength through quick crossing routes and screens will prevent pressure from getting to Roethlisberger.
LaMarr Woodley, you do realize the season started, right?
Yes, Woodley does have one-and-a-half sacks this year, but can you think of an impact play that he has made?
I know I can’t. There needs to be more production from one of the team’s highest paid players.
The run defense is suffering and there is a complete lack of pass rush, both strengths of Woodley’s. It is time for him to start producing.
- Pittsburgh leader of the overall series 2-1.
- Mike Tomlin has a 5-3 record against the AFC South.
- Ben Roethlisberger is three touchdown passes away from 150 for his career.
- Rashard Mendenhall is two yards away from moving into 10th all time in team history.
- Hines Ward is 16 receiving yards away from moving into 20th on the all-time list.
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