Whilst not exactly the most exciting of this weeks games, the Houston Texans traveling to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers is somewhat intriguing. We have Big Ben welcoming Big Beard into his house, trying to make amends for the walloping they received at the hands of the Browns. And quite the walloping it was. We have the Texans coming off an interesting Thursday night game against the Colts, where they were able to come back from 24 points down to make a game of it, having a chance to win it on their final drive.
Pittsburgh were considered by many to be a dark horse in the AFC, with many pundits believing they could be a surprise Super Bowl contender. That seems to have gone out the window, with many, including myself, believing they could finish bottom of their division. They currently sit at 3-3, with an unconvincing win at home against Cleveland to open the season, a 17 – 10 win against the lowly Jags in which they scored only one offensive touchdown, and, in what was their best performance, a 37 – 19 win over the Carolina Panthers.
They’ve alternated these wins with two big losses to division rivals, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 36 – 16, and getting dominated by the Browns, 31 – 10.
There were some worrying signs against Cleveland. On offense, Big Ben didn’t look good at all. He was wildly inaccurate, and kept throwing risky passes. His receivers couldn’t get any sort of consistent separation which didn’t help, but often, when they did, Roethlisberger was missing them.
1. The Steelers Are Committed To The Run
It might have not shown up on the box score, with 44 drop backs compared to 32 rushes, but that is only because they were forced to throw being down by so much.
The Steelers were very dogged about running the ball, they seemed to come into this game with the idea that they would just continue to run regardless of the situation. Down 21-3 in the second half and they were still continuing to pound the rock.
The offensive line wasn’t letting defenders come up into the backfield, but they seemed to struggle to create lanes for Bell. The fact that Bell ended up running for 4.6 yards a carry is a testament to his absurd talent, not the performance of that line.
On Pittsburgh’s first drive they had 10 plays, all rushing plays. Their philosophy is about running early and often and play action passing. It can be successful with a receiver as quick and freakishly talented as Antonio Brown, but he just doesn’t have the help around him to take the defenses attention away. They also need Big Ben to be more accurate.
In short – expect a heavy running attack from the Steelers.
2. Steel Curtain? More Like Paper Curtain. This Pittsburgh Defense Is On Struggle Street
Defensively the Steelers have a lot of work to do. Against the Browns the receivers kept winning the battle for the catch, even with defenders on them. They couldn’t seem to defend against play action, which gave the Browns some huge plays. They struggle to defend tight ends, Jordan Cameron killed them on some long plays, including a 42 yarder on the second drive where Cameron was wide open.
The Steelers also seem to have an issue defending outside runs, The Browns were finding it way to easy to seal the edge. Look for Houston to utilize pitches and maybe even a few end around’s to really test the Steelers on the outside.
The Steelers have a lot of trouble against backs who have real agility between the tackles. Ben Tate destroyed the Steelers cutting back, and that’s not a good sign with Arian Foster coming to town.
Expect Foster to have a huge day against this team. Also look for DeAndre Hopkins to be a real threat down the field on play action.
This could be Houston’s most productive game on offense all season.
3. Antonio Brown May Be The Best WR In The League Right Now
Brown is continuing to get better and better. He is on track for 1700 yards this season, and has 5 touchdowns in just 6 games. He is by far the Steelers go to man in the air, and even with defenses knowing this, he’s still super productive. He is a complete receiver, with speed to burn and serious circus catch ability.
He’s coming up against a Texans backfield that isn’t great, so he’ll definitely still get his. Look for Big Ben to target him religiously on third down. It could be that success on third down that could very well decide the outcome of this game.
4. Ryan Fitzmagic? Or Ryan Fitzcrapshit?
Ahhh, Ryan Fitzpatrick. It didn’t help this guys reputation as a player that will lose you a game with his game ending fumble against the Colts. In all fairness though, he was hit from behind while trying to make a play, so I’ll give him a bit of a pass. The fact is, the Texans don’t want to get into situations which involve them driving down the field to get a win.
They are built to play with a lead, just keep running the ball and control the clock. If Fitzpatrick can minimise his turnovers, he can be ok for this team. There were times against Cleveland, on third down, when Pittsburgh rushed 6 guys to put pressure on Hoyer. If they can do this effectively to Houston it will have a huge impact on Houston’s ability to move the ball, and the game may come down to Fitzpatrick.
Not exactly the guy you want in that situation.
5. J.J. Watt vs Everyone
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Actually forget about the elephant. J.J Watt just ate it.
He is an absolute beast of a man, destroying offensive lines at will. I can’t say I have seen a player that gets so much attention with double teams and even triple teams and yet is still such a disruptive force. His motor is ridiculous, and you just know that quarterbacks have him in the back of their minds.
As good as Big Ben is at extending plays with his feet, one has to wonder how that will play out against Watt. If Watt can take this part of Big Ben’s game away, Pittsburgh’s offense will really struggle on third down. On top of that, don’t be surprised to see a bunch of Steelers turnovers, if Roethlisberger was iinaccuratelast week, imagine how he’ll do with J.J Watt charging at him.
I am very surprised that the Texans are 3.5 underdogs. Obviously with Pittsburgh at home you expect them to be favored, but can’t figure why the spread isn’t 3. I figure Pittsburgh are a popular public bet at home, and the Texans going down by 24 points early against the Colts in prime time might have also been a factor.
Either way, I have the Texans winning this outright. I think if you can still get the Texans at +3.5 it’s a solid bet, and that’s certainly where i’m going. I feel the Steelers turn the ball over multiple times, and Foster has a huge game against a really suspect defense.
PREDICTION – Houston Texans 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 24
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