*Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans travel to Pittsburgh for a Monday Night Football matchup with the Steelers.
1. Go Foster Go: Running back Arian Foster has amassed a combined 300-plus yards from
scrimmage in the last two games. 266 of those yards have come on the ground, and in all, he's rushed for 100 yards or more in four of the five games he's played this season.
Like the rest of the offense, getting Foster going early would go a long way toward helping Houston come out with a victory. They've gone scoreless in the first quarter of every game, save for the Week 2 win at Oakland.
Starting quickly has been emphasized this week by the Texans.
"One of the things we're focused on this week is just play our best football when we start the game and play our best football when we end the game," quarterbacks coach George Godsey said." I think we'll find ourselves in a little better situation."
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick described the ways in which the Texans worked on that.
"Trying to start every drill whether it's a ball security drill or a team period," Fitzpatrick said. "Just trying to start every drill everybody on the same page and doing everything right."
2. Limit Le'Veon- Foster's not the only ball-carrier in this game doing great things in 2014. Across
the field, Le'Veon Bell has 542 yards rushing. He's also tallied 100 yards or more from scrimmage in every game this year.
"He's got good moves and he can do a lot of different good things," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "He's a bigger guy, but he's very shifty and very quick. He makes a lot of people miss and that is very important if you want to get those extra yards."
Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was quick to point out that Bell's a threat as a receiver, too.
"He catches the ball, so he's an all-around back that you just can't leave him," Crennel said. "If you have him in coverage, you better be on him because Ben will go to him."
Roethlisberger and Bell have hooked up for 234 yards through the air--Bell also caught a 17-yard pass from receiver Antonio Brown this year--and the second-year back from Michigan State is a definite threat on offense for the Steelers.
3. Tighten Up- The tight ends haven't put up numbers in the passing game as in year's past for the
Texans. The trio of Garrett Graham, Ryan Griffin and rookie C.J. Fiedorowicz has a combined 13 catches for 119 yards. O'Brien and company said more than anything, winning matters. But they'd like for that group to be more involved in the offense, and because gameplans change week-to-week, that could start against Pittsburgh.
"We would certainly like to have the tight ends involved, no doubt about it," O'Brien said. "Each gameplan is a little bit different. Some games call more for more running, some games call for more throws to the receivers, and some games call for more throws to the tight ends."
Fitzpatrick also explained that with receivers like Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and a capable pass-catcher like Arian Foster, there are only so many balls to go around. But he also said Graham, Griffin and Fiedorowicz are good targets.
"I really like throwing to them in the passing game," Fitzpatrick said. "It will be a week-by-week thing in terms of their involvement I think."
- Punish Big Ben**- Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown eight touchdowns and three interceptions so far this year, and has completed 143-of-219 attempts for 1,593 yards. He's tied for first in the NFL in pass completions of 25 yards or more, and has the full attention and respect of the Texans' defense.
"He's obviously a bigger guy, which makes him a little bit more difficult to tackle," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "He's been in this league a long time. He's had success in this league, so he knows what it takes to be successful."
Bill O'Brien reeled off a list of reasons why Roethlisberger is such a challenge, and said the Pittsburgh signal caller is great at exploiting advantages in the Steelers' favor.
"He'll find that soft spot and make you pay," O'Brien said. "Our guys just need to go out there and make sure they're really focused and doing their job one every play."
Opposing defenses, though, have dropped Roethlisberger for a sack 17 times so far in 2014. 11 have come in the last three games.
5. What will he do next?: J.J. Watt has been extraordinary this year.
Three touchdowns to his name, which is the most for a defensive lineman since William Perry scored thrice in 1985 for the Bears.
An NFL-best 20 quarterback hits.
Seven tackles for loss.
Six batted passes.
On the prime-time stage for the second week in a row, the Defensive Player of the Month for September will try to add to the 17 times Roethlisberger's been sacked. But he's also been so good as a run defender, that his contributions there will be important to observe.
Some have mentioned Watt as a possible MVP candidate, but Crennel said that talk needs to wait a bit.
"It's kind of early to be talking about all that, but I hope he keeps playing like he does and keeps making those kinds of plays," Crennel said. "Then, I think it will be cut and dry."
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin wasn't shy in his praise of Watt, and brought up the idea of Watt bringing home some awards.
"He's on top of his physical talents," Tomlin said. "He's got enough experience now where his experience is really showing through. When a really talented player is at that stage of his career you have an opportunity for fireworks, player of the year type fireworks, and obviously that is the type of tape he's putting out right now."
If Watt lights the Pittsburgh sky with fireworks on Monday night, and the Texans are victorious, that talk will only intensify.