Steelers Gab 2014 Week 7 NFL Preview – Houston at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Steelers v Houston Texans

At 3-3 Steeler Nation seems to feel that the sky is falling following last Sunday’s 31-10 blowout loss to the Browns in Cleveland. They get an extra day off this week as they get set for the AFC South’s Houston Texans, a team with a stud defensive player in J.J. Watt and a couple solid offensive stars in Andre Johnson and Arian Foster.

Today we take a look at the keys for a Steelers win, as well as how we feel the game Monday night will wind up at Heinz Field.

1. Pressure Ryan Fitzpatrick – The Texans had done a nice job protecting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, that is until the Colts blitzed him frequently during their Thursday night matchup a week and a half ago, and they got to Fitzpatrick five times. The Steelers should take a lesson from Indy, and make sure they do whatever they can to get to the veteran QB, more so since the secondary has proven they can’t seem to cover when a QB has time to throw. It would be nice to see the Steelers have 4-6 sacks in this matchup.

2. Pound the Rock – The Texans are ranked 26th in the league in run defense, allowing 125.7 yards per game on the ground. Last week before things got out of control against the Browns, the run game had success with Le’Veon Bell, Legarrette Blount and Dri Archer all getting carries and having a decent amount of success rushing against Cleveland. This week they should duplicate that game plan, with Bell getting 20-25 carries and Blount and Archer each getting carries to give the team a change of pace. Plus running the ball will keep J.J. Watt off Ben Roethlisberger’s back.

3. Avoid Critical Mistakes – The Steelers have been their own worse enemy in their three losses, committing key mistakes in all 3 games that have cost them – from penalties to turnovers to simply missing blocks that have cost the club. Against the Texans, they have to limit those mistakes, and that includes staying focused for 60 minutes, not playing well for 57 minutes and then blowing it in the final 3 minutes like they did against the Buccaneers. Let the Texans be the team that commits the big mistakes down the stretch, like they did a week and a half ago against the Colts.

Prediction – The Texans have gotten off to slow starts as of late, and the Steelers have to take advantage of that and come out and try to build an early lead and then stay focused for four quarters. The team has to put last week behind them, and from the sounds of it, they feel that they can build off the loss with a good effort against a Texans team that is having its issues like the Steelers. This is a game of redemption, and look for a physical, solid effort from the black and gold that results in a key win as they get set for another big home game vs the Colts next Sunday at home. Steelers 24 Houston 14

About the Author

Matt Loede
Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.

3 Comments on "Steelers Gab 2014 Week 7 NFL Preview – Houston at Pittsburgh"

  1. Matt, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Your points are spot on. But you might have added one more: play calling appropriate to the situation. In this regard, it would be nice to know exactly who does call the plays, Haley or Ben?

    There seems to be a lot of confusion among fans about who is running this offense. Take a look at Gene Collier’s article (Oct. 6) at Post-Gazette.com, “Trying to Believe Steelers Offense is not as bad as it appears,” and particularly the blog comments that follow, ignoring the rant. It seems many fans believe that Ben R. calls most of the plays, especially in the no-huddle, and audibles as he wishes, based on a game plan devised by Haley. In other words, Haley suggests and Ben runs the show. This would explain some of the very odd play calling these days, especially in the red zone, which Ben himself admits has been sub-par.

    History is suggestive of this. Ben acquired a reputation among the veterans as a ‘drama queen’ shortly after joining the Steelers. He has been criticized for trying to do everything himself (relying on his own talent and disparaging the run). His petulance under Arians and Haley when forced to play within the offensive scheme is well documented, presumably because it constrains the scrambling, improvisational style he prefers that keeps the focus of the offense on him. Although Ben did not play well in either Super Bowl 40 or 43, he does have two Super Bowl rings and a massive contract, which forces OCs to treat him with some deference.

    Next, consider that Bruce Arians’ offenses after the Steelers, in Indy and now in Arizona, were more balanced than the aerial circus he coached in Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, it was ‘bombs away’ with Ben, but not in Arizona. It’s enough to make you wonder whether Arians and Haley have both been forced to give Ben R. more latitude in play calling than either wished.

    IF that is true, or even mostly true – and I don’t pretend to know – it would mean that (a) the discipline issues on this team start at the top and are more systemic than previously believed; (b) Ben R’s style as a QB is inconsistent with Haley’s offense and the compromise they’ve worked out simply isn’t working; and (c) the offense is inconsistent because it varies with Ben’s ability (or inability) to read defenses, his seeming aversion to rushing the football, and his tendency to call plays in critical situations that aggrandize his own role and stats and bolster his ego at the expense of the team.

    I readily admit this is all speculation, but the responses to Collier’s article suggest the preception is fairly wide-spread among fans, and I have yet to see a more credible explanation for why an offense this talented is so inconsistent and ineffectual. Watch the play calling in key situations against the Texans and in the games to come and draw your own conclusions.

  2. Hello Doc its been a while.
    The speculation that Ben is running the show is a valid point and that Arians has a more balanced offense in both Indy and Arizona, however this could be attributed to Arians growing as an offensive mind and expands his game plans. As for Ben under Haley’s offense, we really haven’t seen much of Ben’s scrambling plays and we have seen him stay in the pocket and try to release the ball quickly. This is what Haley was brought in for and I don’t see Ben going off script too much. What gets frustrating to see is how poor the Steelers start a game when the first play calls are supposed to be scripted as well as how poor the plays are coming off of a timeout. This might be due to both Ben and Haley still struggling to coincide.

    As far as the game prediction goes… We all know the well documented deficiencies the Steelers have against the outside zone running scheme. Houston will undoubtedly run this scheme and Foster might be in line for a very big game. If the Steelers can stop the run and limit the play action then I think Steelers could win this game tonight. If Foster and company have their way on the ground tonight, then we might be in for another disappointing loss. After the blowout in Cleveland last week, sleep-walking to a win in Jax, and another crushing loss to Tampa Bay, coupled with all the rhetoric of the team being soft and inconsistent from all around social media, Tomlin better have this team ready to go for a Monday night game.

  3. George H, it’s a joy to hear from you again. Your comments are always well reasoned. See my post-game note on the Texans game with respect to the issues you raised.

    It appears that Haley is tightening the reins on Ben, and it’s working. The gadget pass play (A. Brown to Moore) and Ben’s staying in the pocket seem evidence of that, as well as the check downs to Bell. They were designed plays, called from the sideline. When Ben has less than 300 yards and the running backs have more than 100 yards, we do better, because we are more balanced. As fine an athlete as Ben is, the team won’t win consistently if he tries to be the whole show. Ben appears to be getting the message. Sometimes, with Ben, less is more.

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