The Pittsburgh Steelers look to right the ship tonight against the Houston Texans. While two of their division rivals fell yesterday, the Baltimore Ravens continue to win, and now lead the division at 5-2. Should the Steelers manage to get back in the win column—which would fit their trend—they will be in second play at 4-3.
The Steelers are back home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s been much help for the defense. While the offense has averaged 27 points at Heinz Field, the defense has also given up 27 points per game.
In both instances, most of the damage came in the second half, while the offense was unable to muster much. It’s clear that even if the team gets off to a hot start, they can’t take their foot off the gas, because they’ve built a reputation for themselves of being unable to close out games.
And it won’t be easy, with nose tackle Steve McLendon out. Arian Foster has been his old self this year, and will be liable to wear the defense down throughout the course of the game with the disappointing Cam Thomas starting at nose tackle.
But we should also be getting our first look at Daniel McCullers this season as well. How disciplined will he be able to be, and how much will his sheer strength be able to help him against the zone blocking scheme?
More importantly, it seems we will also get our first extended look at another rookie, second-round defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who will reportedly start on the left side with Thomas sliding over to the middle. He’s shown well at times, but has also had his struggles. But he’s never game-planned as a starter before. I hope to see growth from him tonight.
The Steelers must continue to get above the line play from veteran Lawrence Timmons, with so much in a state of uncertainty around him. He has been playing the run very well since getting off to a rough start, but this defense also needs to see him start making some plays on the quarterback and on the ball as well.
The Texans have a scheme similar to that of their last opponent, and we saw last week that Sean Spence could be fairly easily neutralized at the second level, being unable to get off blocks. I wonder if we might see a bit more of Vince Williams in this game, assuming of course that Ryan Shazier doesn’t play.
Of course, the biggest news on the defensive side of the ball this week was likely to demotion of starting cornerback Cortez Allen, who will (temporarily?) resume his previous sole as a sub-package player. Brice McCain, former Texan, will start in his place, but the net effect is that it makes the Steelers’ secondary much shorter.
Of the starting four players, only Mike Mitchell stands above 5’10”. That could be an issue against Houston’s tall wide receivers and tight ends.