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Scouts Inc - Steelers at Texans
Steelers - QB
Texans - RB
Texans - OL
Texans - WR
Steelers - DL
Steelers - LB
Steelers - DB
Texans - ST
Steelers - Coach
After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Steelers-Texans matchup.
1. Pittsburgh needs more balance offensively: The Steelers have drifted away from a physical offensive approach featuring a power running game. The Texans are inconsistent defending the run (yielding 106 yards per game on 4.8 yards per attempt) and pounding the football should limit opportunities for an explosive Houston offense. Look for offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to design a game plan with a good dose of Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman in mind.
2. Keep Ben Roethlisberger clean in the pocket: The Steelers offensive line is banged up and has been inconsistent keeping Roethlisberger upright. The Steelers signal caller has been taking too many hits and as a result has been nine sacks, four fumbles and four interceptions early in the season. Pittsburgh needs to utilize more maximum and slide protections to give Ben time in the pocket to scan the field.
3. Make the Texans one dimensional: Gary Kubiak does a great job with a balanced offensive game plan, which is tough to defend against. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will need to be creative with his 3-4 scheme to stymie a formidable ground attack (averaging 138 yards per contest). The Steelers will likely use more interior stunts and twists to force a one-dimensional air attack.
4. Bring the heat in passing situations: The Texans have a dangerous passing game, but when in long-yardage conversions the Steelers can create havoc in Houston's backfield. LeBeau should dial up a variety of pressure packages involving Troy Polamalu and Pittsburgh's linebackers to force Matt Schaub out of his comfort zone.
5. Matchup to watch: Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace vs. the Houston cornerbacks: Wallace is one of the most explosive wide receivers in the league (averageing 18 yard per reception). He is an excellent route runner with elite quickness. The Texans cornerbacks, Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph, are excellent athletes in their own right but have been inconsistent defending the deep ball at times. Look for Wallace to try and stretch the field to pick up chunks of yards in this week's battle on the perimeter.
6. Spread Pittsburgh out to run the football: The Steelers haven't been as stingy defending the run thus far (yielding 99.3 yards per game, 4.6 yards per attempt) but can shut down a ground attack if you pack in your offensive personnel. Look for Kubiak to utilize multiple spread formations to force a linebacker to adjust and more nickel packages to matchup with personnel. This should make it easier to move the ball on the ground against a physical Pittsburgh front seven.
7. Take shots downfield in versus the Steelers pressure packages: Pittsburgh likes to bring pressure in a variety of ways (linebacker, safety blitzes) but it can be a high-risk, high-reward defensive philosophy. Kubiak may keep extra blockers in to max protect while isolating Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter or Owen Daniels in pure man coverage schemes.
8. Get Big Ben on the ground: Roethlisberger is one of the toughest NFL quarterbacks to sack because of his strength and ability to extend the play in the pocket. Often times he is best after he feels pressure and improvises to deliver the ball down field. Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips must have his unit disciplined in its rush lanes and focused on wrapping up to get Big Ben on the ground.
9. Win the special-teams phase of the contest: Both teams have competent punters and placekickers. The Steelers have improved over the past two seasons on special teams and have an explosive returner in Antonio Brown. Houston has also been very solid with their coverage units and Jacoby Jones is a dangerous threat in the return game.
10. Matchup to watch: Texans WR Andre Johnson vs. the Steelers' cornerbacks: Johnson is considered one of the best perimeter targets in the league. He is a powerfully built athlete with speed and quickness as a route runner. Pittsburgh has two physical cornerbacks (Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden) that will have their biggest challenge of the season trying to cover Johnson.
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