The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 for just the fourth time since the 2010 season. They are looking to go 3-0 for the first time since then. That year, they actually went 3-0, and 3-1 in total without Ben Roethlisberger, en route to a 12-4 record, the second seed in the AFC, and a trip to the Super Bowl, albeit a trip that ended in defeat.
Still, the fact that they made it that far the last time they went 3-0 should serve as just a bit of extra fuel to get there again. Of course, it’s always better to win than to lose, and every team tries to win every game they play, even when it’s meaningless.
The Houston Texans will be scratching and clawing to try to win today after being sent home winless against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens over the course of the past two weeks. They are a team obviously better than an 0-2 record, but are they good enough to beat the Steelers at home?
The short answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean they will. While Houston provides stiffer competition than they faced against the Giants and the Broncos over the past two weeks, Pittsburgh is still the better and more talented team, and should win as long as they don’t beat themselves.
The key to the game for me is finding success on offense on first and second down. One of the reasons the Steelers were so bad on third down last week is because the majority of their third-down tries came on third and long—nine yards to go or more. You’re not going to convert most of those. So staying ahead of schedule for me is the biggest thing they have to pay attention to.
That includes having more success on the ground, though that’s only a small part of that. David DeCastro returning should hopefully help to improve things in that area, particularly with his ability to pull. I also expect the tight ends to play a greater and better role in this phase.
The tight ends should also be more involved in the passing game, especially Eric Ebron, who was brought in basically to be a receiving threat, even though they are asking him to block. He has made a couple plays through two weeks, but the team knows they can make greater use of him.
One more thing offensively I am looking at is Ben Roethlisberger and his footwork, which is something he acknowledged during the week needs tightening up. We’ve seen him get choppy and it has led to some bad throws. Some improvement in his ‘feel’ in terms of pressure would be welcome as well. And this also ties into his ability to trust his arm and trust his receivers to be in the right spots.
There is a defense too, and the number one priority is rush lane integrity. There’s no question the Steelers’ pass rush can get in the backfield against this Texans line—Deshaun Watson has already been sacked eight times—but if they give him escape valves, he’s going to exploit them and beat them. Even Daniel Jones ran the ball at times against them.
Meanwhile, the return game has been showing flash through two weeks. It feels inevitable that at some point either Diontae Johnson or Ray-Ray McCloud is going to break a return for the distance and it’s going to count. Will it be this week?