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Foster and the Texans Ground Game Chew Up Steelers in 17-10 Loss in Houston

Ben Roethlisberger beat up all day by the Texans.

For one quarter Sunday it appeared as if the Steelers had it right. They were running the ball with attitude, protecting Ben Roethlisberger, and making plays.

But, just as fast as it came, it went, and with it the chances for a 3-1 record as the Steelers fell to 2-2 on the season with a frustrating 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.

The Steelers defense again had major issues against the run, as Houston running back Arian Foster gashed the Steelers for 155 yards on 30 carries with a score. He led a Texans offense that dominated the game in quarters 1, 2, and 4, the final quarter really being the one that mattered.

Foster went for a 42-yard TD run with 12:02 to play for the game-winner. It came on a play where a couple Steeler defenders, including Troy Polamalu, ran into each other, allowing Foster to race for the long TD.

It was the longest running TD allowed by the Steelers D since their home loss to Denver way back in 2006, when WR Javon Walker scored on a reverse.

The Steelers patch work offensive line was the difference, as they were not able to protect Ben Roethlisberger when they needed to, as the QB ran for his life all day.

On the day, Ben was sacked five times for negative 28 yards, and took quite a few shots, including one on the final drive that showed him get hit low. The Texans were hit with a 15-yard penalty, but it didn’t matter as a few plays later he was picked to end the final Steelers threat.

Roethlisberger ended the day 16-for-30 for 206 yards with the end of game pick. He ended up rushing two times for 11 yards, but had to escape trouble all day.

The Texans QB Matt Schaub was held in check for the most part, as Houston relied on the ground game all day. Schaub went 14-for-21 for 138 yards and a TD on the Texans opening drive.

Houston set the tempo for the game on the first drive, going on a drive that covered 19 plays for 95 yards and took 10:39 off the clock. Schaub hit Owen Daniels for the one-yard score to make it 7-0.

The Texans rushed and got to Roethlisberger quite a bit early, and it wasn’t till the Texans were up 10-0 that the Steelers finally got a drive together.

With the half ending, they lined up for a field goal to try to cut it to 10-3. Shaun Suisham’s kick was blocked, and the Texans took it back with zeros on the clock for a score that looked like it would make it 17-0.

The Steelers though caught a break, as Daniel Manning was called for a block in Susiham’s back, and the half ended 10-0.

The third quarter belonged to the Steelers, as they finally ran the ball with success, and put together great drive, going 74 yards in 13 plays. Antonio Brown made a couple big catches, and Rashard Mendenhall had some room to run, eventually going in from three yards out to make it a 10-7 game.

After a three and out, the Steelers put another drive together that ended with a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to tie it at 10.

Despite things looking up, the Texans took over from there, going back to Foster who eventually went in for the winning score with just over 12 minutes to play.

The Texans outgained the Steelers 318 to 296, and the Steelers ground game was held to 118 yards, though they did look better in the second half.

Now at 2-2, the Steelers will play four of their next five games at Heinz Field, starting next week with the 3-1 Tennessee Titans, who beat up the Browns in Cleveland Sunday.

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.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Thomas Crowley

    October 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Could we be witnessed the demise of the steel curtain?

  2. Ed Nestor

    October 2, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Hampton,Kessal, Farrior should be gone next year. Palumlu and Ike Taylor only one’s paying off on investment. Woodley and Timmoms play like there on something. Steelers should draft seven offensive linemen and let them play till they learn. Hell with this taking three years to learn the Steeler System. Ravens have twenty new players and let learn on the job. Get rid of offensive coach and offensive line coach. Trade Meddenhal for a draft pick and let Redman carry the load. Meddenhal should be on dancing for stars. Time to rebuild and get rid the the defensive coach his time has passed. Clean house and start with what you have before the Bengals, Browns and Ravens all have young talent and your left with father time. Please sit Farrior as much as possible he belongs in a rocking chair. Can’t run with tight ends over the middle and can’t tackle anymore. Warren Sapp was right as much as I hate it admit it. Rebuild. Look at Stanford offensive line in college tons of talent. Just Big Ben isn’t broken down to a twig with what’s going on now.

    • The Tony

      October 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

      That is a very interesting thought about trading Mendenhall for a first round draft pick, but the question remains, is Mendenhall worth a first round pick. I agree with you that a combination of Redman, who I believe could be a monster in this league with his hard nose extra yard style of running and Moore who can catch out of the backfield. Anyone else have any thought on this?

      • Jay

        October 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm

        No, you probably couldn’t get more than a second or third round pick for Mendenhall but do it anyway and trade up for a quality tackle!!!! Jesus Christ, another blogger said it earlier that Duane Brown was available and Houston took him three or four picks later. Everyone made fun of that but he and Winston are a top level tackle duo! I know it’s hindsight but I’d rather reach on a tackle than a running back who are available in later rounds anyway. How are those later round offensive linemen the Steelers took doing? I heard Mike Lombardi on the NFL Network alluding to the Steelers being impressed with Aaron Curry of Seattle and Seattle not being happy with Curry! I would love to get him…He’s 6’2″, 255 and one of the fastest linebackers in the league. Give up a first for him, I don’t care and cut farrior. If oyu noticed during this game, our much maligned corners didn’t do too bad (I know Johnson got hurt but still). Aaron Smith got blown up in the run game and so did Farrior AND, of all things, Woodley and Timmons are at large or something! I seriously say to give these young guys some playing time (i.e., Worilds, Sylvester, Carter when he’s healthy, Lewis at corner, and Heyward and sit or get rid of these old heads)…Either shit or get off the pot with rebuilding. and for God sakes, keep Ben off the field until you get NFL players to play on the o-line!!!!!

  3. Jay

    October 2, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Ed, I couldn’t agree more and although the coaches will never admit and certainly not the fans (except you) this team is rebuilding. This is an old, uninteresting defense that has some young talent on the bench and needs to see what it/they can do. We won in 2005 with good offensive line and in 2008 IN SPITE OF THE (SUCK) OFFENSIVE LINE and got there last year in spite of the offensive line, andrew philof shit-baloney whatever your name is on 6:00 pm KDKA. It is that important to have talent up front and that, not the defense, (we surrendered 17 points on the road to a high powered offense—as ugly as the defense looked that’s not too, too bad, bad but not too, too bad)…It’s the joke otherwise known as the o-line that never gives BB enough time. And fuck all that shit about him holding the ball too long. Yeah he does, but so what. It’s those plays that he extends that do something for us. And he shouldn’t have to extend plays ALL THE ^%$#@ TIME. A QB needs consistent blocking up front. Fellow gabber, Mark, just alerted me to the fact that BB has a boot on right now. BB and us fans have no one but the organization to thank for BB getting injured, period! They’re the ones who blatantly refused to go out and get offensive linemen. Yeah, when you draft later every year, your picks are gonna be lackluster at best (hood, etc.). So move up or be creative and grab somebody earlier in the round(s) or sign some relevant free agents for Christ’s sake. It’s pathetic and I hope BB misses some time because at this point I’m more concerned for his health than I am this stupid team that has dropped the ball up front on offense since 2006!

  4. JMG

    October 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I HATE rebuilding years!! It was inevitable, though. Last year the holes and problems were ignored because of the team’s success…nobody thinks a SB team needs much work. Hopefully now the front office folks will realize their mistake of essentially ignoring the offensive and defensive line needs. Making building the lines their main concern in the drafts (unless there’s a monster corner or linebacker we just can’t pass up) and getting rid of Arrians and his ridiculously predictable play calling will restore the team to the perennial dominating team we’ve come to expect rather than this in the playoffs one year, out the next, in again, then out again crap.

    And until the o-line is better…put in someone besides Rothlesberger…otherwise B. Ben will get killed before the season’s out & we’ll be looking for a QB on top of everything else.

  5. Mike

    October 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    the combination of a bad offensive line and a QB that likes to hang on to the ball is a brutal combination. Smith, hampton and farrior are done. Not to have 20/20 hind sight but the steelers should have taken the Texans LT Brown in the first round in 2008 but they took Mendenhall 3 picks ahead of him. RB’s are a dime a dozen. Foster being an example, undrafted free agent. Then compound that with taking Sweed in round 2 of the same draft.

    I think they could still get to 10 wins just because of their weak schedule at the end of the year. They will not contend though. Its to bad. They have a lot of talent on the outside and still have playmakers defensively. They have simply ignored their offensive line in the draft for so long that it is coming back to bite them.

  6. Tony DeMarco

    October 2, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I think Art II needs to get involved and corral (Obama) Tomlin’s and (Biden) Colbert’s egos and address the O-line issues including the obvious Kugler problem. Today was just another embarrassment that first and foremost, is a reflection the “political” coaching tact that usually gets covered by Tomlin’s weekly rhetoric. In a way, I hope Ben’s injury is a wake-up call for Mr Rooney. Otherwise, we can all forget about 2011 znd hope that 2012 brings about the changes needed to get back on the right track and quit running the team like the White House and Congress is runnong the country. What happened to Ben today was truly tragic.

  7. Mike

    October 2, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Tony, politics? Really? Be better than that. Its just football….

  8. DrGeorge

    October 2, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    There are legitimate points to be made about the O-line’s performance today, but Sean Kugler’s coaching isn’t one of them. Suppose you had his job and lost three starters the previous week (Gilbert, Legursky, and J. Scott). One of them recovered enough to play hurt (Gilbert), but not at his regular RT position, but at LT in place of Scott, forcing you to plug Foster and Essex in at RG and RT. That’s a 60% change-over of your starters on the offensive line. Then in one week, you have to take those five guys and prepare them to play together against one of the league’s better defenses, knowing they can’t get enough reps to play with continuity. Then if your makeshift O-line plays well enough to come within 22 yards of the opposing team, run blocks well enough to make Redman and sometimes Mendenhall effective, pass protects better than the previous week (well enough to get the team back to a 10-10 tie late in the game), I’d say you’ve done a helluva job. Offensive line play is about timing; the skill of blocking in a synchronized fashion. It isn’t a skill learned individually. O-lines play as a unit. Based on what I saw, I would expect these same 5 guys to play better next week and in the weeks after that, as they become accustomed to working together as a unit — barring injury.

    Please note: I’m not disagreeing with my colleagues here who lament that we haven’t drafted better offensive linemen. I’ve made that point in this space repeatedly over the past four years, as the regulars here know. But it’s unfair to blame Kugler for what others failed to do on draft day, or for the injuries that decimated the talent he has to work with, or for the way Arians and Ben choose to use the O-line, knowing it is not at full strength.

    Finally, belaboring the woes of our O-line ignores the far more serious problem we have on defense. It was the defense, after all, that gave up the winning TD after the offense tied the game. It was the defensive line that proved itself unable to stop the power running game of Houston, just as it could not stop the power running game of Green Bay last year or Baltimore earlier this season. The team spent two #1 draft picks on defensive ends (Heyward and Hood), neither of which has impressed to date. Hampton, Smith, Keisel, and Hoke have aged and are not the players they once were, yet there are no younger players on the roster who are better. LeBeau can’t be faulted for the talent that isn’t there. And the lack of D-line talent is the real reason we can’t get pressure on the opposing QB or stop the run, and the underlying reason why we lost this football game.

    • Jay

      October 2, 2011 at 11:08 pm

      Yeah but Doc, the defense ultimately gave up 17 points on the road to a high-octane offense..I’m not disputing that they couldnt get pressure on Schaub…What I am disputing is the overall assessment that it was the defense’s fault. you shouldn’t be expected to shut out a high octane offense on the road. Holding them to under twenty points is fine by me. If, on the other hand, that you have a “high octane offense” of your own, then you should be asked, with an elite QB like BB, to score more points than 17! Kugler is not to blame here, but some (if not all) of the o-line injuries, in my estimation, are directly linked to the unathletic nature of the players up front; ergo, the loss can be directly attributed to not drafting better players on the o-line through the years and allowing BB an opportunity, LIKE EVERY OTHER ELITE QB IN THE LEAGUE, to scan the field without CONSTANTLY having to improvise. You can’t drop back and not even have a chance to set up like 70% of the time, and then be blamed for holding the ball too long. I could see if he were setting up and scanning the field about 50% or so of the time but as soon as he gets to the end of his drop, the FUCKING POCKET IS COLLAPSING ABOUT 60-80% of the time!?!?!?! You can’t expect anyone to do anything with that nonsense going on! Yes, Arians will run the ball effectively and get big gashes with Redman and then, on a second and two, he’ll brilliantly call a five step drop with most of the routes going down the field!?!? Really, he has got to be, out of all the “elite” teams, the worst OC in the league. Hood has not been that good either. To me the first order of business is to get an elite LT in the draft, even if it means moving up via trading picks. I think they should go and get a high profile FA since it’s been since Farrior (2002?) that they actually signed someone of that caliber!

  9. Ed Nestor

    October 2, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    The should rest Ben the rest of the season and retool for him next year while cleaning out of the over thirty club. Ben could have five to ten more years. If at this pace with the clowns they have blocking for him he will be a Bubby Brister soon. Ben can’t take much more of these licks that are killing his body. Let the other QB take the beaten the rest of the season. And Draft offensive lineman in the first three drafts plus trade Meddenhal for a first of second even a third. He’s shot his bullets and we have some young guys there that at least do as good as him.

  10. blackNgold4life

    October 3, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Its a tragic situation ..the safeties and Dbs are maken more tackles on run plays then the Dline and linebackers..Harrison is the only one playing with any fire..haven’t heard Woodleys or Timmons name calld all season..and Farrior continues to Wiff on tackles..its true, at this pace they’ll be lucky to win 8 games..Scrap the 3-4..we don’t have The talent for that up front any more..And poor Ben..he’s been running for his life since Fanaca and Hartings left..yes he holds the ball alil long..but that’s him..I’d start Redman..he hits the hole cause he knows it wont be open for Eva..Truthfully I saw this comming in the. Preseaon when they made not one change to that O-line via draft or free agency.Can’t say they rebuilding when you have the same problems and REFUSE to fix them..Arians,Kulger and Colbert need to go
    .evn Laboe as hard as that is for me to admit..Tomlin is being handcuffed.

  11. DrGeorge

    October 3, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    One of the few bright spots in the loss to Houston was that third quarter drive featuring Redman as the point man for the ground attack. The O-line during that drive made some nifty holes, including a particularly memorable play in which Foster and Gilbert both pulled and sealed off the Houston LBs, which Redman exploited (as Mendenhall rarely does) by breaking a tackle and bursting through the hole, running low, and making a nice gain. For those of us who have been singing Redman’s praises for the past two years, it was a moment of vindication. And it was vindication for Foster, Gilbert, and Pouncey, who possess footspeed we haven’t seen in our O-linemen in some years.

    More important, that drive showed this O-line can run block surprisingly well for one patched together over the previous five days. The problem is, Arians stopped running the ball and went back to the aerial circus when the chips were down. He seems constitutionally unable to commit to the run. But running the ball would keep Ben from taking all those horrendous hits, and control the clock, and rest our defense, and keep the opposing offense off the field, and make the play action plays more effective for Ben, allowing him more time to pass. How many reasons does Arians need to begin running the ball consistently?

    That’s why I believe Kugler did his job in rebuilding the line, and why I believe he is being blamed here for Arians’ misuse of the O-line, an improvised line that is clearly better at run blocking than pass protecting. A coach must adapt to the talent he has on that day. Arians has failed to do that.

    Now, take a look at the headline above: “Texans Ground Game Chews Up Steelers.” That’s the kind of headline we used to read in Pittsburgh about our team. On Sunday, Houston gave us an embarrassing dose of old-fashioned Steelers smash-mouth football. Even in the era of the aerial circus, the ground game and defense still wins games. The Steelers need to get back to running over opponents, and Arians is not the guy to do it.

  12. Jay

    October 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I couldn’t agree more and I wish we could take this text and materialize it with like ridiculously mega hot hot sauce and force feed it down Andrew Filliponi’s throat! I do not blame Kugler but I have been on the draft more offensive line talent bandwagon. I do know that Pouncey possesses foot speed and Gilbert if for no other reason than because he’s young but I did not know that about Foster. Hmmm, interesting. I do believe Arians in constitutionally incapable of running the ball (see my earlier AA parody post)….It sucks because if I were the GM or HC and I looked at these road graders we have (lack of pass blocking ability), I would sit BB down and be like, look, we gonna get you pass blockers up front but until we do, you gonna hand off to dudes until you get sick of it! It’s frustrating because on the aforementioned drive Doc was alluding to, Redman ran about three or four times up the gut for nice gains and then on second and two, Arians calls a pass that gets BB sacked unto 3rd and long. I almost ripped my TV out the wall! Let’s make a learning rhyme for Arians. Go to the well until the well runs dry, run the ball, run the ball because if you don’t we’ll punch you in the eye! I don’t know anything to get Asshole arians to do things differently.

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