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Know Your Foe: Pittsburgh Steelers

Posted Dec 25, 2017

When this game was announced back in April, it appeared as if it could be a potential playoff matchup two weeks before the playoffs.

When this game was announced back in April, it appeared as if it could be a potential playoff matchup two weeks before the playoffs. Then, T.J. Watt was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and everyone got excited about Watt Bowl I. Of course, we all know that neither of those situations will come to pass on Monday afternoon as the Texans multitude of injuries, which includes T.J.’s well known older brother J.J., has eroded the season in short order. The Texans haven’t won since a November matchup with the Arizona Cardinals in November and suffered a 45-7 thrashing in Jacksonville last weekend.

The Steelers suffered after an even more damaging loss to the New England Patriots, one that reverberated throughout the NFL for numerous reasons. Had the Steelers won, they would’ve locked up a bye in the first round of the playoffs and potentially the number one overall AFC playoff seed. Unfortunately for Steelers Nation, that didn’t happen. After that gut punch loss to New England and an earlier season loss to Jacksonville, there’s a chance that Pittsburgh may have to play on Wild Card weekend if it stubs its toe again in either of the final two games (Texans, Browns).

Unfortunately, the Steelers’ injury situation reared its ugly head late in the year. It’s nearly as bleak as the Texans’ injury situation, not so much as it pertains to the volume of players lost, but the quality of players lost. Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier is still recovering from a spinal injury, while MVP candidate Antonio Brown injured his calf against the Patriots. There aren’t many teams in the NFL that have lost, arguably, the team’s best offensive player and best defensive player, but the Steelers have for now.

With that as the backdrop, let’s take a look at the AFC North’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

2017 TEAM RECORD
11-3 (2-1 v. AFC South)
W, 21-18 @ Cleveland Browns
W, 26-9 Minnesota Vikings
L, 23-17 @ Chicago Bears
W, 26-9 @ Baltimore Ravens
L, 30-9 Jacksonville Jaguars
W, 19-13 @ Kansas City Chiefs
W, 29-14 Cincinnati Bengals
W, 20-15 @ Detroit Lions
W, 20-17 @ Indianapolis Colts
W, 40-17 Tennessee Titans
W, 31-28 Green Bay Packers
W, 23-20 @ Cincinnati Bengals
W, 39-38 Baltimore Ravens
L, 27-24 New England Patriots

OFFENSE
2017 Team Profile (14 games)
Rush offense - 102.8 ypg (21st in the league)
Passing offense - 280.7 ypg (2nd)
Total offense - 383.5 ypg (4th)
Scoring - 24.6 ppg (9th)
3rd Down Percentage conversion - 43.9% (3rd)
Giveaways - 18 - 14 INT, 4 Fumbles (T16th in most giveaways in NFL)

This is the Steelers projected starting lineup for Christmas day against the Texans:
WR - JuJu Smith-Schuster
LT - Alejandro Villanueva
LG - Ramon Foster
C - Maurkice Pouncey
RG - David DeCastro
RT - Chris Hubbard
TE - Jesse James
QB - Ben Roethlisberger
RB - Le’Veon Bell
WR - Eli Rogers
WR - Martavis Bryant

Key Offensive non-starters
FB - Roosevelt Nix

What’s the biggest concern for the TEXANS defense facing the PITTSBURGH offense?
The ability of Ben Roethlisberger to keep plays alive has always been an issue for the Texans defense. Big Ben has consistently created space and time to throw and that can’t happen this week if the Texans plan on upsetting the Steelers. However, keep an eye on Le’Veon Bell as a pass receiver. In 2014, the last time the Texans faced the Steelers, Bell made the reception and run after the catch in the second quarter that broke the damn wide open in a win for the Steelers on Monday Night Football. The question for the Texans is which player makes the most sense to cover Bell in the passing game?

What’s the biggest concern for the STEELERS offense facing the HOUSTON defense?
Finding Jadeveon Clowney and accounting for him alone. It’s that simple. He can be individually disruptive on every play, run or pass.

Offensive X-Factor
The Steelers inside trio - DeCastro, Pouncey, Foster - these three play with the nasty streak that’s expected of Steelers’ offensive linemen. They can pound on teams with Bell and given Bell’s running style, they don’t have to be perfect; they just have to beat you up and Bell will decide where to run.

DEFENSE
2017 Team Profile (14 games)
Rush defense - 101.1 ypg (8th in the league)
Passing defense - 206.7 ypg (5th)
Total defense - 307.8 ypg (4th)
Scoring Allowed - 19.9 ppg (7th)
3rd Down Percentage conversion allowed - 36.0% (8th best)
Takeaways - 18 - 14 INT, 4 Recoveries (T18th for most takeaways in NFL)

This is the Steelers projected starting lineup for Christmas day against the Texans:
DE - Cam Heyward
NT - Javon Hargrave
DE - Stephon Tuitt
OLB - Bud Dupree
ILB - Sean Spence
ILB - Vince Williams
OLB - T.J. Watt
CB - Cam Sutton OR Joe Haden
S - Mike Mitchell
S - Sean Davis
CB - Artie Burns

Key Defensive non-starters
Nickel - Mike Hilton
ILB - Tyler Matkevich
LB - Arthur Moats

What’s the biggest concern for the STEELERS defense facing the HOUSTON offense?
No one in the NFL has been effective stopping DeAndre Hopkins this season and that responsibility now falls in the hands of Artie Burns, more likely than not. With a rookie (Sutton) or a banged up veteran (Haden) on the other side of the formation, Burns will probably get the call to slow down Hopkins. That should give Will Fuller V opportunity to get down the field and make some big plays in the passing game.

What’s the biggest concern for the TEXANS offense facing this PITTSBURGH defense?
That defensive front. My goodness. Heyward and Tuitt are prototype 3-4 defensive ends that can play up and down the defensive line and in a multitude of schemes. Dupree and Watt are tremendously athletic and can create a ton of havoc off the edge. The Steelers present similar problems up front that the Jaguars created last week down in Duval County. The Texans offensive line will be challenged again by one of the most disruptive fronts in all of the NFL.

Defensive X-Factor
Nose tackle Javon Hargrave - he’s the Steelers’ D.J. Reader (who’ll be missed badly in this one), an underrated, stout, hard to move defensive interior clogging machine. The main reason why the Steelers have one of the top eight defenses in the league is Hargrave, the four year star out of South Carolina State.

Content on HoustonTexans.com does not necessarily represent the views of the Houston Texans front office staff, coaches or executives.

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