The Texans (0-2) travel to Pittsburgh for a Week 3 matchup with the Steelers (2-0). It's the first meeting between the teams since their Christmas Day bout in 2017. Here are five things to watch when the two squads kick off at Noon CT at Heinz Field. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Take THAT!: The Texans are tied for next-to-last in the NFL in turnover differential. They've yet to get a takeaway on defense or special teams, and they've coughed the ball up via fumble or interception three times on the young season. Flipping that around and winning the turnover battle could go a long way towards success for Houston.
Last season, the Texans were even in the category, and managed to win 10 games. They went as high as plus-3 in turnover differential after their win over the Jaguars in London. But after that, they lost the turnover battle in five of their last seven contests, and finished that 7-game stretch with a minus-3 mark in turnover differential. Add in this year's two games, and their at minus-6 over their last nine regular season games.
"Turnovers are the difference in the game," safety Justin Reid said. "We've got to find ways to get to the ball. We've got to get the ball out, whether it be interceptions, picks, fumbles or fourth-down turnovers. Whatever it's got to be, we've got to start figuring out ways to get the ball out more and that's how we'll help the team win. That's been a very strong point of emphasis this week in practice and it's been showing up for us, so we need to take that with us to Sunday."
The Steelers have fumbled the ball away twice, and thrown an interception so far this season. They have four takeaways of their own, and are tied for 14th in the League at plus-1 in turnover differential.
2) Watching the Watt family: For only the second time in 93 years, three brothers will play in the same NFL game. 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt will square off against his brothers T.J and Derek. The former is a Pro Bowl outside linebacker, and the latter is a fullback and standout special-teamer. It's the first time J.J. will be on the field with T.J. The eldest Watt and the Texans beat Derek and the Chargers last season in Los Angeles.
"It truly is incredible," J.J. Watt said. "Just to have all of us playing at Wisconsin was really cool. Just to have all of us playing in the NFL was really cool. To play against another brother was cool. Now to have all of us on the field at the same time in the same game, it really doesn't get any better than that."
J.J. tallied a pair of sacks, and batted a pass down last Sunday against the Ravens. T.J. has three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception in 2020. Derek is tied for second in the NFL with three special teams tackles, and he led the League in that category last year.
J.J. continues to rise up the NFL's all-time sacks list. He was 98 in his career, which is tied with Joey Porter for 35th in NFL history. With two more, he'll tie Andre Tippett.
3) Wind up Watson: Despite the winless start to 2020, Deshaun Watson remains optimistic. The Texans have won a combined 21 games in which he's started the over the last two years, and Watson believes the offense isn't far off from getting on track and producing, and detailed exactly what needs to improve.
"Scoring in the redzone," Watson said. "Of course, we kick field goals, but we want to score touchdowns. Protect the ball. No turnovers and just clean operation. If we can do those three things, I think we'll be just fine."
So far in 2020, Watson's completed 66 percent of his passes with a pair of touchdowns and pair of interceptions. The Steelers are well aware of his capabilities, and want to limit the damage he can do. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said Watson is a "ridiculous challenge" for a variety of reasons.
"Not only in terms of his quarterbacking ability and his arm talent but his ability to improvise, his ability to extend plays, his leadership skills," Tomlin said. "He's battle-tested. We're facing a group that's a little bit different than the first two groups we faced, particularly from a quarterbacking standpoint, not only in what he's capable of but his experience and what they expect from him is dramatically different than our first two games."
4) Protection at a premium – Watson got knocked around in the loss to the Ravens. He was hit 13 times, with four of those resulting in sacks. The week before at Kansas City, he was hit seven times, with another four ending in sacks as well. The offensive line must play better, but the five up front aren't solely to blame, according to head coach Bill O'Brien.
"A lot of that is not just the line," O'Brien said. "Everybody's involved in it. I think that the line will always work hard to improve. I think that they'll get better and better each week and they need to. Everybody needs to. Everybody's got to improve. I think our line will continue to work hard and will continue to get better."
With the likes of T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward attacking up front for Pittsburgh, the Texans will have their hands full with an aggressive pass rush. Factor in the linebackers and defensive backs who help bring pressure as well, and the Texans must combat that attack.
"Quick passes, intermediate passes, whatever it is we've got to do a good job with the different types of protections that we have to make sure that we are giving some time," O'Brien said. "It's trying to keep everybody off balance and do as good a job as we can at protecting and making sure we run great routes and read it right and get the ball out."
5) Big Ben's Batallion – Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been crisp through two games, completing just over 68 percent of his passes, and throwing five touchdowns compared with just one interception.
He has an array of pass catchers in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, to go along with a running back duo combining to average 5.3 yards per carry this year in James Conner and Benny Snell.
"Ben's obviously a tremendous player," defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver said. "He's got a ton of experience in this league. He's seen every coverage. So, we're going to have to go out there and obviously play excellent defense, and we've got to win the mental battle against a guy like that as well."