9.30.2011

It's Okay To Admit You're Worried About The Texans


Wait. I'm seriously concerned that the Steelers might lose to the Texans? "This is not my beautiful house... This is not my beautiful wife..."

It's not that I think the Steelers are uncapable or even all that unlikely to beat Houston. I've just yet to see the team put forth the kind of effort that I know that it should be on a weekly basis if it hopes to contend for another title. I know that's odd to say about a team that has won a game 24-0, but it's true. Perhaps we'll finally see different against the Texans. We may have to if the Steelers want to win.

Above all else, that means not turning the ball over. Pittsburgh has at the moment a league-worst -9 turnover differential. That might be a bit inflated from the -7 that came out of Week 1 alone, but you'd prefer they stay out of the negative over any span of time. Of course, the turnover issue can be blamed as much on protection issues, as it can on erratic play. Of course, that a fine preface for discussing how the team plans to deal with Mario Williams.

Jonathan Scott probably won't start, which would be welcome news if it weren't Trai Essex replacing him. Now, it were just Super Mario who was a threat to disrupt in the pass rush, I wouldn't worry so much, since you can just double team him with a tight end. But Texans defensive end Antonio Smith is so far having the makings of what could be a breakout season with three sacks through three weeks. Oh, and just to twist the knife a little more, let's not forget what happened the last time these teams faced off. Yes, the Steelers won handily, but Mario Williams came off the edge to crush Roethlisberger, a hit which resulted in a shoulder injury that dogged the quarterback for most of the '08 season.

There are two components to the turnover differential and the defense isn't contributing much more than the offense. Granted, the Steelers first takeaway of the season last week proved to be a mammoth factor in determining who won, but the fact that Steelers are even getting turnovers need not be a novelty. James Harrison and Polamalu are the only ones even getting close in most occasions. Someone like Timmons or maybe even Ziggy Hood is going to have to make those kind of splash plays as well.

Arian Foster appears likely to play for the first time this season, which doesn't bode incredibly well for a rush defense that has looked more vulnerable than it has in years, possibly since late in the 2007 season after Aaron Smith went down for the season. I doubt Foster will be entirely 100 percent when testing a hamstring injury that could be aggravated fairly easily, so I would expect the workload to still be predominately Ben Tate, who has been passable, if not spectacular in Foster's absence.

One positive is that despite racking up huge yardage, Houston has been fairly wretched in the red zone so far in 2011. They're 29th in red zone efficiency and were only 1-for-5 last week in the loss to New Orleans (even still, they managed to score 33 points). Obviously, you like a game not determined by whether the opposition is rolling up either threes or sevens on your team, but any edge is appreciated at the moment.

As for the dour preview, I'm still waiting for this team to dominate the way they're capable of doing. I know that's a shitty thing to say about a team with a winning record, but we all know that's padded by wins over two of the worst teams in the league the past two weeks, and a very narrow one at that last week. A loss to the Texans doesn't write the Steelers off entirely, but it will make you wonder when the team will finally get it going, or maybe whether if what we're getting is simply what we're gonna get.

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