The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Do you place much stock in what you saw from the defensive passing performance in Houston?
The Steelers defense pretty much shut down the Texans’ passing game, barring about two plays in the game, both of them made by Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins. One was an absolutely stellar touchdown grab, while another was a catch-and-run after the ball was only narrow not defended.
If you take away those two plays, then the Texans gained just 42 yards through the air on 15 passing attempts, averaging a god-awful 3.5 yards per pass attempt. Even with the two good plays on the night, they averaged just 5.5 yards per pass attempt, with one touchdown and one interception.
The running game is another story, of course, and a topic for another article. The running game defense has been troublesome for much of the season, but as I highlighted recently, it has become death by 1000 cuts.
The Steelers got Joe Haden back, and while he gave up the plays in the passing game and drew a couple of fouls, he seemed as though he was making a difference. The team had him shadowing Hopkins during the game, which is obviously a huge assignment.
But while he may have been covering Hopkins, it was still T.J. Yates throwing the ball. The Texans didn’t even complete half of their pass attempts. Clearly, the quarterback play was not very good.
But the coverage was. And the rush was—they had seven sacks on the night. And Houston was at home. So how much of that positive performance can be taken as a sign of things to come? The re-introduction of Haden was momentous regardless of opponent, for one thing.
The Steelers will be facing DeShone Kizer and the Browns on Sunday. They won’t even know who the next quarterback they face yet will be. It could be any number of teams depending on how the next two weeks play out. What will this passing defense look like against that quarterback?