Schedule* W, Cleveland 30-27
L, @ Baltimore 26-6
W, @ Carolina 37-19
L, Tampa Bay 27-24
W, @ Jacksonville 17-9
L, @ Cleveland 31-10 **No common opponents...yet
Rush Yards allowed per game: 111.2 ypg (14th)
Pass Yards allowed per game: 225.8 ypg (10th)
Total offense allowed per game: 337.0 ypg (12th)
**Points allowed per game: 23.2 ppg (19th)
Key Defensive Personnel*
*DT No. 90 Steve McClendon will not play due to injury
ILB - No. 50 Ryan Shazier...rookie...soon to be star in the middle...will blitz, will drop in coverage...plays sideline to sideline...not big run stuffer but will be a double digit tackler per game for his entire career...limited participation in practice during the week, probable for Monday night.
S - No. 43 Troy Polamalu...12th year in the league...still making plays, continues to freelance outside the scheme...takes chances reading eyes of the QB
Scheme notes and other thoughts
-- Base: 3-4, zone blitz scheme, many different wrinkles over the year under DC Dick Lebeau
-- Any sort of throwback off bootleg action was a gold mine against the Steelers defense. Off boot or half roll, the Steelers lost tight ends a pair of times crossing the formation.
-- Watching tape this week, I wrote in my notes that the Texans needed to attack CB No. 28 Cortez Allen. I must not have been the only one seeing the issues because he was demoted behind former Texan CB Brice McCain this week. Allen's confidence appeared shot as he was beaten by WR and TE downfield. Maybe the demotion will take some pressure off of him, but that's the Steelers issue down the road.
-- Outside zone, outside zone and outside zone - the Steelers struggled against zone runs more than I can remember and it's one aspect of the running game where the Texans perform well.
-- Polamalu is sometimes difficult to find and when he involves himself in the run defense, the Texans must account for him. He showed late on an early run against Jacksonville, the Jaguars didn't account for him and he tackled the RB for a loss. The Browns did account for him and it helped open a huge hole for a key first down run.
-- In coverage, Polamalu's sort of a wild card as he takes chances reading the QB's eyes. He'll bite on first eye movement, so a pump fake, look opposite could find a WR open.
-- Nose tackles aren't typical Pittsburgh two gappers and don't hold the point of attack like those in the past. As such, the entire defensive line has difficulty getting off solid, point of attack blocks.
-- But, on third down and medium/long, not much has changed…here comes the show. Zone blitzes/dogs from all over the place.
-- James Harrison was brought back but he's a shell of the player he once was. He doesn't have burst off the ball and struggled to beat the offensive tackle on third down passing situations. He still has power but not the juice to win off the edge.
-- Stephon Tuitt is an up and coming lineman for the Steelers, a rookie from Notre Dame but he's slow to react on zone plays. He's athletic but he's not a consistent dominating presence at five technique. Can be, but isn't...yet.
Rush Yards per game: 137.3 ypg (5th)
Pass Yards per game: 259.2 ypg (11th)
Total offense per game: 396.5 ypg (6th)
Points per game: 20.7 ppg (23rd)Key Offensive Personnel
QB - No. 7 Ben Roethlisberger...eleventh season in the league...still can extend plays like he's always done, although he's done less of it over the past few years...that said, QBs have had success lately doing just that v. the Texans the last few weeks...loves to go to Brown, but needs go-to weapon in the red zone, not named Heath Miller
RB - No. 26 LeVeon Bell...loved him coming out of Michigan State and he's even better than I expected...versatile and can impact both the running and receiving games...good zone runner but doesn't have tremendous burst when he "goes"...good vision and patience
WR - No. 84 Antonio Brown...has matured into one of the best receivers in the league...versatile...can "win" in a number of different ways...clear that he has amazing synergy with Roethlisberger after playing with him for five years
LT No. 68 Kelvin Beachum and RT No. 77 Marcus Gilbert...edge protectors that'll be on the spot against JJ Watt and the other Texans edge rushers...both struggle with consistent technique...pass protection leaves a bunch to be desired...both play with some pop at point of attack...feet and knee bend could be an issue
Scheme notes and other thoughts
-- Will go empty, will play 13 personnel and 12 personnel as well. Not much 21 personnel, but 12 personnel aligned in I Pro or I offset. Heath Miller will be the move TE/FB, so I'd consider that 12 personnel and not 21 personnel
-- The Steelers love, LOVE the split zone and will run it a bunch - will have a few zone wrinkles as well (using TE as an interior zone blocker to get to the second level). They'll mix in some toss to allow Bell to get to the perimeter, with option to cut back inside against over pursuit.
-- When LeGarrette Blount enters the game, he'll run the ball. They don't want him in pass routes or pass protection.
-- Speed between No. 13 Dri Archer (slot WR, kick returner and RB), No. 11 Markus Wheaton and No. 84 Antonio Brown is a concern.
-- Although the Steelers WR have speed in spades, other than Brown, they have trouble getting open consistently. Way too often, Roethlisberger threw toward a covered wide receiver against the Browns, in particular. It's easy to see why Roethlisberger often locks in on Brown without scanning the field for an open receiver. He knows there aren't any.
-- When Archer is at RB, he's going to see the rock, some way, shape or form. He's tiny but his burst to the second level is amazing. If the OL gives him a seam and he hits the hole cleanly, it's trouble. If he's in the slot, it could very well be jet sweep (motion toward bunch means jet sweep).
-- The Steelers red zone and goal line execution has been subpar lately. Against the Tampa Bay Bucs, Roethlisberger eyed Heath Miller inside the red zone and it got the Steelers on the board. Against the Browns, Ben didn't and they didn't score. I'd expect Roethlisberger to go back to the well v. the Texans.
-- The Browns did a nice job of making RB LeVeon Bell bounce on one back power runs and then the secondary tackled very well. That's a key against a powerful back like Bell - the secondary must find its proper run defense fits and tackle coming from deep like the Browns did. Bell has good initial burst, but not the "get-on-you" quicks that Archer has. Then again, Bell is nearly 50 pounds heavier than Archer.
-- Against the Browns, the Steelers aligned in a 3x1 set, motioned 83 across the formation and the Browns moved the MLB out to cover him. That left five in the box and the Steelers immediately checked to a run. If the Texans are in dime or adjust the same way, I'll bet all the money I have in my bank account that Roethlisberger will check to inside zone to Bell or Blount.
-- Man free (with no help in sight) or blitz zero, Roethlisberger will find Brown, probably on back shoulder throw.
-- The Steelers will move Bell around the formation and even align him as a perimeter receiver. He's advanced at that position for a running back too. He ran a double move on a Browns safety early in the game and was open. Roethlisberger air mailed the throw incomplete but it's a matchup the Steelers think they can win.
-- I think the narrative for the Steelers OL, for years, has been that it's the weak link on the offense. It may have been that in other years, but I'm not completely buying that fact after watching this quintet on tape. It doesn't always play cohesively but there are more than enough moments when that group gets a hat on a hat and mashes.
-- Keep an eye on rookie Martavis Bryant (6'4", 211 lb.) in the red zone. As I noted above, the Steelers haven't done much in the red zone, especially against the Browns, so the Steelers have worked with Bryant this week, especially to help with red zone woes.