2020 Pittsburgh Steelers | Know Your Foe

In the Texans Inaugural season of 2002, the Texans went to Pittsburgh and shocked the Steelers with a 24-6 win. It was the oddest game maybe in the history of the league. Why? Well, the Steelers piled up 411 yards of total offense to the Texans 47. No, that's not a misprint, the Texans had just 47 yards on the entire day and won by three scores. How in the you-know-what did that happen?

Three Texans defensive touchdowns, that's how.

Kenny Wright ran back a fumble for a touchdown, while one of the great corners in Texans history Aaron Glenn ran back two interceptions for touchdowns. That was enough to get the win. That win over Pittsburgh was just one of two the Texans have over the Steelers. The other one occurred in 2011 when Arian Foster had an extraordinary day running the rock against the Steelers stout defense.

I mention those two games because they really are the inspiration for this week's trip to Pittsburgh. Two things the Texans MUST do on Sunday to get a win over the Steelers - create turnovers (2002) and run the rock (2011). Win number three v. the Steelers, and win number one on the 2020 season, won't be easy, but it won't happen without success in those two areas on Sunday.

 Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is back and looks sharp while on the other side of the ball, the Steelers defense is creating chaos for opposing offenses with a myriad of blitz schemes and physical play. With no further ado, let's get to Know our Foe for week three - the Pittsburgh Steelers.

2020 Season - 2-0
W, @ New York Giants
W, Denver Broncos 26-21 

Steelers OFFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 125.0 ypg (14th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 254.5 ypg (10th)
Total offense per game - 379.5 ypg (14th)
Turnovers lost - 3 (1 INT, 2 Fumbles lost) 

Expected Steelers starting offense in week threeQB - BEN ROETHLISBERGER
RB - James Conner
WR - Juju Smith-Schuster
WR - James Washington
WR - Diontae Johnson
TE - Eric Ebron
LT - Alejandro Villanueva
LG - Matt Feiler (played RT in 2019)
C - Maurkice Pouncey

Other Key Offensive piecesRB - Benny Snell
TE - Vance McDonald
FB - Derek Watt
WR - Chase Claypool
RB - Jaylen Samuels 

Bold - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New starter in 2020

Keys to winning v. the Steelers Offense

  1. Present Ben with a few different looks - the man has seen nearly everything throughout his career but he's not above making a mistake, especially if he sees something that he's not seen before, or rarely seen. 
  2. Win 1-on-1 at the line of scrimmage - the Steelers offensive line is starting two guards that have rarely started at those positions in the league (Feiler and rookie Dotson). They also start a tackle (Okorafor) who is starting consistently for the first time in the league. When one-on-one, the Texans interior players, a group that has plenty of experience in this league minus rookie Ross Blacklock, MUST win those individual battles up front more often than not.
  3. Don't err on Ebron - the former Indianapolis Colts star was a thorn in the Texans' side while he was with the Colts. He doesn't get as many targets as he did in Indianapolis, but he certainly has the trust of Big Ben in this offensive scheme.
  4. Master man coverage - the Texans haven't been gashed through the air as in previous years, but there's one thing that CAN'T happen; It just can't happen. When in man coverage, the Texans can't continue to run into one another on rub/pick routes. It happened in a big spot in the second quarter against the Ravens and cost the Texans in a big way.
  5. Remember he's not down until the whistle is blown - one of the toughest aspects of facing the Steelers is that every single ball carrier makes life miserable for opposing defenses when it comes to getting them to the ground. Roethlisberger has the nickname Big Ben for a reason. Running back James Conner will run through anyone in his path. The receivers, though, don't seem like they're tough after the catch, but think again. On a third and ten inside the red zone, Juju Smith-Schuster caught a screen, broke a tackle six yards short of the first down marker and carried it down to the two yard line for a first down. That was a four point missed tackle. If it's made short of the first down, the Steelers would've settled for a field goal; instead, they scored a touchdown a few plays later.

Steelers DEFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 66.5 ypg (1st in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 238.5 ypg (14th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 305.0 ypg (2nd)
Turnovers generated - 4 (3 INT, 1 Fumble recovery - Steelers are +1 in TO margin)

Expected Steelers starting defense in week three
DE - Cam Heyward
DE - Stephon Tuitt
OLB - T.J. Watt
OLB - Bud Dupree
ILB - Devin Bush Jr.
ILB - Vince Williams
CB - Joe Haden
S - Minkah Fitzpatrick
S - Terrell Edmunds
CB - Steven Nelson
Nickel - Mike Hilton

Other Key Defensive piecesDE - Chris Wormley
OLB - Alex Highsmith
DT - Tyson Alualu
CB - Cam Sutton
DT - Isaiah Buggs

Bold - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New starter in 2020

Keys to winning v. the Steelers Defense

  1. Don't lose composure - the Steelers defensive unit preys on offenses panicking and losing focus with all of the different looks it provides and the physical nature with which it plays. Relax. Play each play with a renewed focus. Win the next down.
  2. Show 'em something different - the Texans offense has shown it can move the ball at times, but there might be something to learn from watching what the Broncos did last week. The Broncos had some success with some different looks than they showed against the Titans the previous week. Even when the backup Jeff Driskel came into the game, the Broncos moved the ball, just not consistently enough to win. This is week three, so teams' tendencies are starting to be established, so the Texans offense has to break its own and use that to its advantage.
  3. Get SOME movement - The Steelers aren't pushed around up front by many, but it's imperative that the Texans get some movement up front. Even with double teams against the Ravens, the Texans didn't knock people off the ball as they can and should. That MUST change this week to provide the running game some room to run.
  4. Find 28 - that's Mike Hilton, the Steelers nickelback. He might be the smallest guy on the field when the Steelers defense faces the Texans offense, but he certainly doesn't play like it. He'll blitz. He'll slide into the box and play the run. He plays with a ton of anger and hostility that is channeled through his 5-9, 184 lb. body. Someone, anyone, must account for him in the blocking scheme as if he's a linebacker, more so than a nickel defensive back. If not, he'll be a menace for Deshaun Watson all day long. In the 2017 matchup with the Texans, Hilton had THREE sacks and forced a fumble too. He might be the best nickel corner in the league.
  5. Score early, finish in the second half - The Texans haven't led at halftime since the win over Tennessee in week 15 of the 2019 season. That's six straight games of not leading at halftime. They've won just two of those six games (Tampa Bay, Buffalo). The opening drive has been a killer for this offense and it'll be refreshing for the Texans to put ANY points up on the board on the first drive of the game. It's then time to put the hammer down and score points, as it should, throughout the game.

Check out some photos from the last few times the Houston Texans have played the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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