Steelers vs Texans First Half Notes And Observations

Below are my notes and observations from the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory over the Houston Texans on Monday night.

  • Rookie Martavis Bryant got his first snap of his career on the second play of the game. The Steelers took off Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore to play him and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
  • The first of Le’Veon Bell’s career-high eight receptions came on third and five, where he stopped at the sticks and made a tough grab in front of the encroaching safety.
  • He second reception came on what for many other quarterbacks would have been a sack for Ben Roethlisberger after J.J. Watt embarrassed David DeCastro. Bell made it count, spinning out of a tackle at the line of scrimmage for 10 yards.
  • It didn’t take long for Ben to try a bomb to Bryant. The first attempt was a little long, but it will come in time.
  • It’s hard for me to fault Wheaton much for his first incompletion. It does seem that he was held on the play.
  • Rookie punter Brad Wing certainly had himself a day, starting with a 48-yard punt downed at the six. He’ll shank one now and then, but he’s the most talented punter the Steelers have had in a while.
  • The Steelers opted to start the veteran Brett Keisel rather than rookie Stephon Tuitt, meaning Cameron Heyward spent a lot of his time on the left side.
  • And with Steve McLendon out, they also chose to start in their nickel defense, and stayed there through most of the game.
  • The front lines had Arian Foster bottled up on the first two plays, and Jason Worilds nearly sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick on third down, but he escaped and threw for the first down, which began a long and frustrating touchdown drive.
  • Tuitt replaced Keisel and moved Heyward to the left side after the first three plays. Foster squeezed between the two linemen, while Lawrence Timmons proceeded to miss an ankle tackle and Sean Spence was blocked out of the play for 11 yards.
  • The Steelers opted to use Keisel and Cam Thomas in their nickel, which turned into a 33-yard run from Foster up the middle.
  • From my layman’s analysis, the onus appears to have been on James Harrison to react to Alfred Blue on the 11-yard touchdown pass that ended the drive. Harrison dropped into an empty zone, which, by the time he’d realized, already gave the back an opportunity to field the ball and head toward the end zone.
  • The Steelers were responding with a nice drive until the left side of the offensive line was beaten on a stunt, allowing inside pressure. The result was a Roethlisberger fumble recovered at the Steelers’ 46-yard line by the Texans.
  • This time the Steelers opened the drive in their base, with Thomas at nose tackle. He was bulldozed off the line on second down, through which hole Foster gained five yards. Afterwards the Steelers went to their nickel.
  • The Steelers remained in their nickel after a third-down conversion, but they did so with Daniel McCullers making his debut, alongside Heyward. McCullers was able to clog the lane, but Foster bounced the run outside for a nine-yard gain. Not necessarily anybody’s fault, just a really good read by a premiere zone runner.
  • Worilds nearly got to Fitzpatrick again on third down, but this time he managed to force an incomplete pass, and the Texans settled for a field goal after starting on the short side of the field.
  • After quickly going three and out, Wing boomed another long punt, this one for 54 yards, which was returned for one yard thanks to excellent coverage by Antwon Blake.
  • Worilds was briefly spelled for a couple plays by Arthur Moats on the following Texans drive, which sent Timmons puking to the sidelines. Vince Williams was targeted on his first play and made the stop on third down to force a field goal attempt.
  • Bell tried to help out his left tackle by chipping on Watt, but it only helped open up the inside for a nine-yard sack on first down at the five-yard line. He made up for it with a 43-yard reception on third down.
  • Watt pancaked Mike Adams two plays later. I think it’s supposed to happen the other way.
  • The drive ended in another sack, but at least it happened in field goal range, as the Steelers cut the deficit to 10.
  • The next three minutes proved to be pretty mind-boggling. It began with a sack by Timmons on a blitz off the left edge, on which he was able to cut inside the right tackle. Keisel forced on incompletion on third down.
  • Then Bell caught a 28-yard pass following an excellent downfield block by Maurkice Pouncey, and culminated in a 35-yard strike in the end zone to the rookie Bryant on the next play.
  • The Texans returner muffed the kickoff and was tackled by Ross Ventrone on the four-yard line. Heyward dragged Foster down after a one-yard gain, and then Worilds and Spence combined to force a fumble, recovered by Spence at the three.
  • And of course Antonio Brown threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Moore to give the Steelers the lead.
  • On the Texans’ next play, Worilds and Heyward collapsed the pocket around Fitzpatrick. With Keisel in the throwing lane, he reacted quickly to bat the ball. It ricocheted off of Timmons’ helmet and back to Keisel, as he returned it to the eight. A two-yard pass to Bell two plays later gave the Steelers a 24-13 halftime lead. That’s some scary momentum.
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