It’s been a long week in the City of Champions with the Steelers getting pummeled by the rival Browns last Sunday. At 3-3, the team is by no means out of the playoff hunt but they must get things together now with three straight home games on the schedule.
Houston Texans 3-3 at Pittsburgh Steelers 3-3
Monday 830pm, ESPN TV, Steelers Radio Network
Key Injuries: HOU, Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing did not practice Thursday. PIT Ike Taylor, Steve McLendon OUT, Ryan Shazier was limited.
What we’re looking for…
1. “Watt” to do about Watt? There is no more dominant defensive player in the NFL right now than Houston’s J.J. Watt. The problem the Steelers’ offensive line will face is that Watt will line up literally everywhere. This means the linemen must communicate so they no who has him and whether they need help or not.
Look for the Steelers to use Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount to chip Watt whenever necessary. Watt is too good of a player to be silenced and that won’t happen tonight. The Steelers just have to make sure they limit his impact which means no sacks, no turnovers caused and no defensive touchdowns!
2. Who steps up on the defensive line? When teams run the ball against the Steelers with nose tackle Steve McLendon in the game the are averaging just over four yards per carry. When Cam Thomas has been over the center, teams are averaging over six yards per rush. McLendon is out this week with a bad shoulder which means Thomas will see time at the nose as will rookie Daniel McCullers. The monstrous rookie from Tennessee will likely see his first action of is career tonight.
With the middle of the line being weakened, someone will need to step up and help slow the Texans’ zone blocking scheme. McCullers shouldn’t have a problem stuffing the middle, but can he get himself down the line of scrimmage when necessary. Cam Heyward has been pretty solid this season but he’ll need help from Brett Keisel and Stephon Tuitt as well.
3. The Red Zone has to be the “TD Zone.” The Steelers have no problems moving the ball between the 20 yard lines but get them inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and they become a totally different team and it isn’t a good one. After two straight weeks of throwing the ball in the RZ, the Steelers tried to almost exclusively run it last week in Cleveland.
Todd Haley has to find balance and he has to attack going straight ahead rather than side-to-side. The biggest issue for Haley is utilizing the talent. He cannot afford to let LeGarrette Blount not touch the ball in short yardage situations and he can’t abandon play-action on second down rather than waiting until third when everyone knows it’s coming.
It’s expected that Martavis Bryant will see his first career action tonight and if he does, they need to use his skills in the red zone.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad and the website @SCBlitz. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/steelcityblitz and on Fancred.com. You can hear him weekly during the season on game day on the Trib-Live Radio Steelers Pre-Game