Here it is, Texans fans! It took three weeks, but the Houston Texans finally have a game where we aren’t facing a top-five offense, and a game that, to the naked eye, looks winnable!
We can put arguably the hardest start to the season behind us and start looking forward. Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense will be knocking on the door of T.J. Watt and the hot Steelers defense, as Houston looks to upset Pittsburgh at home. Let’s take a look at some of the battles that the Texans will need to win to walk away victorious at Heinz Field.
TJ Watt and the Steelers Pass Rush
This is going to be the toughest battle for the Texans in this game. TJ Watt is tied with the Washington Football Team’s Chase Young with 2.5 sacks to start the season. The Steelers are averaging five sacks a game. This pass rush is dangerous and will keep the Texans’ hands full. Houston’s offensive line has allowed eight sacks on Deshaun Watson so far this year, an unfortunate record matched only by the Eagles and Carson Wentz. The Texans offense will need to be more fluid and effective, especially on third down. So far, they have only converted 7-of-19 on third down, and are only averaging 332 total offensive yards per game. They will need to take what the Steelers defense gives them and not settle for field goals. This Pittsburgh defense will not give them many opportunities, so Houston needs to take the chances they’re given.
Shut Down Big Ben
The second key to success will be taking down the head of the beast, Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben is not afraid to air the ball out this year, as he is averaging 250 yards a game. James Conner has shown he is very up-and-down in his performances so far, and the Steelers have often leaned on Big Ben to get the win. The Steelers have always been good at developing WR talent, and Roethlisberger will have no worries in finding talent to move the ball. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and even rookie Chase Claypool have all shown to be solid, viable options for the Steelers. The Texans, who have had quite a gauntlet so far, will look to contain Big Ben. The recipe here will be what I recommended last week against the Ravens. The defense will struggle to keep Big Ben down, and their pass rush has not been great this year. If they can keep up enough pressure and force the the Steelers to kick field goals, they can put themselves in a position to steal a win.
Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency
This has been a huge problem area for the Texans the last few weeks. Whether we look at the earlier-referenced third-down percentage; the low amount of total offense; or the negative turnover ratio (-3), the Texans have been the spitting image of inefficiency. This is an area where a few small steps could make a large difference. The offense needs to get clicking faster so they are facing fewer 3rd-and-long situations. The Texans defense needs to force more turnovers and give the offense better field position. The Houston offense needs to get moving and stay moving in this game. If David Johnson is not running the ball well, Houston needs to make a change early and use him in other ways by creating play-action opportunities and passing him the ball in space. The key to this offense is spreading the ball around. No one here is a dominant, dangerous threat that you single out. Spread the ball around so the defense has to watch everyone and can’t key in on one or two players.
The biggest battle that will decide this game will be the Texans offense versus the Steelers defense. The Texans will fight hard, and this will be a closer game than their first two match-ups — but, Big Ben will close this game and put it out of reach, this week.
Prediction: Steelers 24, Texans 16
(Featured Image Credit: HoustonTexans.com)