NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans Preview
Welcome to the NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans Preview! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a Game Preview, the Steeler’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Fantasy Football Impact, Game Information, Individual Stats, Team Stats, the latest Injury Report, down to the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
Pittsburgh Steelers Focus on Houston Texans After Agonizing Loss to New England
There are losses, and then there are losses.
It’s one thing to be beaten straight up, but when a game feels stolen from you, the feeling lingers around in your stomach for what seems forever.
“I think that we all can acknowledge that all of this needs to be revisited,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said regarding Jesse James’ overturned touchdown call last week vs New England. “Not just that play. We are having similar discussions week in and week out. As a member of the committee, I acknowledge that we’ve got our work cut out for us this offseason regarding a number of those things.”
It was the call heard around the world and it sparked debate for the rule to be eliminated.
“There are a few rules that need to be looked at,” Texan’s head coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday. “I would say that that’s one of them. Surviving the ground is only applicable in the NFL. In college, high school, pee-wee football, it’s a different rule. I realize that we have a higher standard in the NFL, it’s a higher level of football, but I think when you’re in the heat of the moment and the way the game is played, guys are trying to make plays.
“I think we do need to discuss the rule. I’m sure guys have great points that could go either way.”
Ben Roethlisberger was still seething days later.
Honestly, it makes less sense to me,” he said on his weekly 93.7 FM radio show. “After the game, I was on board. I understand the catch rule, completing it all the way to the ground. I’ve seen it happen many times.
“The more I’ve watched it, the more I’ve felt like he caught it, brought it into his body and then reached out. When he hit the ground, it came loose, but I felt the reach is the credit of a football move.”
That overturned call not only handed the Pittsburgh Steelers a loss and all but sewing up the #1 overall seed in the AFC, it also cost Jacksonville a spot in the top two for the coveted first-round bye.
Life in the NFL, however, moves on and now the Steelers must take care of business against the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns, and if so, will at least secure the #2 seed.
“For us, it’s not about what transpired, it’s how do we move on from it?” Tomlin said. “How do we learn from it? How do we better ourselves for the next fight? …
“How we respond to this loss will define us.”
The Steelers will get corner Joe Haden and tackle Marcus Gilbert back into the lineup Monday but will be without the services of WR Antonio Brown until the playoffs.
In Brown’s absence, rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster knows that the rest of the wideout corps will have to elevate their game.
“Now that he’s not out here, we have guys who just have to take his plate and eat off if it,” Smith-Schuster said.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley echoed his young rookie’s comments.
“It’s not a one-man job,” Haley said of filling in for Brown. “I thought the guys in the (previous) game did a great job of stepping up. As soon as AB went down, I talked to guys on the sideline about each one of them stepping up and making plays and really they did that across the board.
“AB is a tough one because he never misses practice, he never misses games. You don’t necessarily think about that scenario a whole bunch.”
One Steeler who will be motivated Monday will be defensive end Cam Heyward, who was a shocking Pro Bowl snub when the selections were announced last week. Eight Steelers were named to the team. Heyward was not.
“Do I need to answer that?” Heyward said. “Of course. But it’s not my choice. Whatever, you’ve got to keep playing.”
Most fans and players couldn’t care less about the game, but it’s the honor of being named to the squad that counts.
Six offensive players from the Steelers were selected, that being quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown, center Maurkice Pouncey, guard David DeCastro and tackle Alejandro Villanueva — as well as kicker Chris Boswell. Ryan Shazier was the lone representative on defense.
Steelers Keys To Victory
- Calling Martavis and JuJu! With Antonio Brown out until the playoffs, it’s on Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster to elevate their games even more.
- Ring the Bell! Le’Veon Bell should have a field day against this sub-par defense.
- Attack Deep! The Texans give up a lot of splash plays. Time to sic Ben Roethlisberger loose upon the Houston secondary.
- Pin Them Ears Back! Pretty simple… get to the quarterback and force T.J. Yates into some bad throws.
- No Splash Plays to DeAndre Hopkins! Don’t give a bad team hope. Make them earn every yard.
“Paging Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stevan Ridely.”
“Paging Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stevan Ridely.”
With superstar wideout Antonio Brown out until the playoffs, the Steelers will likely ramp up the running game in the final two weeks against Houston and Cleveland.
“We want to run the ball, but we don’t want to have too many carries in my body,” Le’Veon Bell noted. “So we still want to run the ball a lot.
“When James was in there, he was getting some carries, taking some carries off of me but we were still running the ball at them. That takes a lot of toughness for a team to tackle guys like me and James. We’re bigger guys running downhill, they have to worry about our offensive linemen. The more runs we’re able to get at people, the better.”
Thus, with James Conner injuring his knee and out for the season, both Fitzgerald Toussaint and newly signed Stevan Ridley will have to earn their keep when Bell is taken out for a series or two for a quick breather.
Don’t expect the passing game to just shut down in Brown’s absence. This group is still pretty deep and very talented.
So who will be counted upon to make the big plays now?
“We all are,’’ Bryant said. “Everybody put a little piece of the pie together and come out with a win and produce. It’s not just me, it’s everybody. Everybody in the receivers group, everybody in the offensive line, everybody at quarterback, running backs. We all just have to come together and win.”
The Texans come into this game having lost seven of their past eight. They were blown away last week by the Jaguars 45-7.
They’ve averaged just 13 points per game the past four and haven’t kept their opponents under 21 points since they played the Browns in Week 6.
It’s pretty simple. The Steelers offense is playing great right now, so even with the loss of Brown, they possess enough weapons to dismantle this wounded defense Houston will trot out there Monday afternoon.
A well-balanced attack featuring Le’Veon Bell, mixed in with a few deep throws should keep the Texans off-balance enough for the Steelers to put up a minimum of 21 points. Without DeShaun Watson, Houston is a shell of itself offensively, but they still have great talent in DeAndre Hopkins and a strong runner in Lamar Miller. Pittsburgh did pretty well last week in limiting splash plays to New England, and that trend needs to continue this week. Never give a bad team a sliver of hope or confidence, so secure the ball and limit Hopkins’ big-play ability and the Steelers will roll.
Steelers 31 Texans 13
NFL Week 16
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3) at Houston Texans (4-10)
Venue: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX.
Game-time: Monday, December 25th, 4:30 p.m.
TV: NBC (WPXI-TV) | Announcers: Mike Tirico (play-by-play) Kurt Warner (analyst) | Heather Cox (sideline)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline)
National Radio: Westwood One | Announcers: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) Dan Fouts (analyst) | Laura Okmin (sideline)
Weather at Kickoff: Dome
Vegas Line: Steelers -10
- Series History: Series began in 2002.
- The Steelers are 3-2 in the overall Regular Season series against the Texans.
- Steelers are 1-1 playing on the road vs the Texans.
- Streak: Steelers won the previous meeting.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 20, 2014, in Pittsburgh- Pittsburgh 30 Houston 23
- Steelers are 0-0 in the Post-Season vs the Texans.
- Last Post-Season Meeting:
- Houston QB T.J. Yates is from Springfield, Pa., where he played at the University of Pittsburgh (2009-13).
- Texans DC Mike Vrabel played with Pittsburgh from 1997-2000.
- With a win, the Steelers will improve to 12-3, 9-2 vs. AFC, and finish with a 7-1 record on the road in the 2017 regular season.
- Ben Roethlisberger with a win, will move to 41-15 in regular-season games in the month of December, including 17-6 on the road.
- Antonio Brown needs one touchdown to break a tie with John Stallworth (64) for sole possession of the fourth-most total touchdowns by a Steeler in team history (rushing+receiving+returning).
- Le’Veon Bell is one touchdown from scrimmage from tying Buddy Dial (42) for the 10th-most touchdowns in team history, and two from matching Ray Mathews (43) for the ninth-most.
- Bell is 112 rushing yards from surpassing Willie Parker (5,378) for the third most in Steelers history
- James Harrison is 2.5 sacks from 85 in his career with the Steelers.
- Chris Boswell is two field goals shy of setting a new single-season team record (Norm Johnson, 1995, 34).
- Cam Heyward will extend his single-season career-high in sacks with his next quarterback takedown (10 in 2017).
A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!
Overall Record: 11-3
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (11th Season with Steelers)
Overall Regular Season Record: 114-59 (.659)
Playoff Record: 8-6 (Qualified for playoffs 7 times)
Last Game: Patriots 27 Steelers 24
Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers
Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger leads a vastly underperforming offense that has the ability to beat you via the ground or the air. Big Ben has normally been outstanding at home but has struggled to put up the same numbers on the road the past few seasons.
Running Backs – Le’Veon Bell is considered to be one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, if not thee best. Bell can kill you on the ground with his speed and elusiveness. He is patient, often delaying a second to find the hole to burst through. Bell is also dangerous out of the backfield as a pass catcher. James Conner was the back-up but is out after injuring his MCL. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stevan Ridley will handle the backup duties.
Wide Receivers – Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the game. You can count on five catches for at least 50 yards every week at a minimum. This wideout group is extremely deep and talented. Martavis Bryant is a deep threat on every play with his size and speed. Eli Rogers is excellent from the slot. Justin Hunter has superior speed and is also a deep threat. Rookie Juju Smith-Schuster has already established himself as an elite option in his first season and is Roethlisberger’s 2nd favorite target. Darrius Heyward-Bey is mainly used on special teams but is a dependable player when called upon in the passing game.
Tight Ends – Jesse James is the starter and becoming one of Roethlisberger’s favorite targets around the end zone. Vance McDonald is a big target that can make splash plays for Roethlisberger across the middle and inside the red zone. Xavier Grimble is also a nice option for Ben inside the 10-yard line.
Defense – The Steeler defense, primed for an awakening in 2017. On the 3-4 defensive line, it’s Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt. Daniel McCullers will rotate with Hargrave. Should Tuitt or Heyward go down, Tyson Alualu or L.T. Walton would step in.
At linebacker, rookie TJ Watt starts at OLB, with Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams in the middle. Bud Dupree stands opposite of Watt. Both can get at the quarterback and disrupt the opposing team’s passing game. Shazier was a stud in the middle and his speed makes him a nightmare for any QB who makes a mistake across the middle. With Shazier out, Arthur Moats, Tyler Matakevich, and Sean Spence will make the best of a bad situation. Don’t count out James Harrison, who will rotate in to spell Watt or Dupree. Anthony Chickillo will also step in for injuries to Watt or Dupree on the outside and is making a name for himself every time he steps on the field.
The secondary is revamped with Joe Haden at corner. He won’t have to guard the opposing team’s #1 wide receiver on every down, as that job falls to Artie Burns. Coty Sensabaugh is the backup corner. Mike Mitchell lines up at free safety, with J.J. Wilcox or Robert Golden backing him up if injured. Sean Davis is getting better by the game at strong safety. Mike Hilton and Will Gay will be in at slot corner positions when called upon.
Ben Roethlisberger (4,025 yards passing | 26 TD passes | 14 interceptions | 21 sacks | 48 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
Le’Veon Bell (1,222 yards rushing | 8 rushing TD’s | 80 receptions | 627 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
James Conner (144 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)*
Fitzgerald Toussaint (3 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Stevan Ridley (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Antonio Brown (101 receptions | 1,533 receiving yards | 9 receiving TD’s)
Juju Smith-Schuster (43 receptions | 699 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s)
Martavis Bryant (41 receptions | 478 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
Eli Rogers (16 receptions | 142 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Justin Hunter (3 receptions | 18 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Darrius Heyward-Bey (2 receptions | 47 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Jesse James (41 receptions | 363 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
Vance McDonald (9 receptions | 131 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
Xavier Grimble (4 receptions | 30 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 29-31 | FG: 33-36 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 10-10 | 30-39: 10-12 | 40-49: 9-10 | 50+: 4-4 | Long: 53)
A look at the Houston Texans!
Overall Record: 4-10
Head Coach: Bill O’Brien (4th Season with Texans)
Overall Regular Season Record: 31-31 (.500) | 31-31 (.500) with Texans
Playoff Record: 1-2 (Qualified for playoffs 2 times)
Last Week: Jaguars 45 Texans 7
Scouting the Houston Texans
Quarterback – Ugly situation. Former Pitt Panther Tom Savage took over for DeShaun Watson after his season-ending injury. Savage suffered a concussion and has been replaced by T.J. Yates.
Running Backs – Lamar Miller is a dual threat for Houston. Good runner and nice hands out of the backfield.
Wide Receivers – DeAndre Hopkins is one of the top wideouts in the game. Will Fuller and Braxton Miller are the 2nd and 3rd options via WR.
Tight Ends – Stephen Anderson can chew up some yardage, but has only found the end zone once.
Defense – Prone to giving up huge plays and allowing a lot of points. Tough sledding without the services of J.J. Watt. Jadeveon Clowney still lurks and has a team-high nine sacks.
Tom Savage (1,412 yards passing | 5 TD passes | 6 interceptions | 21 sacks | 2 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
T.J. Yates (303 yards passing | 3 TD passes | 1 interceptions | 5 sacks | 31 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
Lamar Miller (796 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 35 receptions | 317 yards receiving | 3 receiving TD’s)
Alfred Blue (115 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 18 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
DeAndre Hopkins (92 receptions | 1,313 receiving yards | 12 receiving TD’s)
Will Fuller (25 receptions | 396 receiving yards | 7 receiving TD’s)
Braxton Miller (16 receptions | 148 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
Stephen Anderson (24 receptions | 338 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (Extra Point: 31-34 | FG: 18-23 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 3-4 | 30-39: 8-10 | 40-49: 5-6 | 50+: 2-3 | Long: 55)
Fantasy Football Impact
Start: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Martavis Bryant, Steelers D
Sleeper: TE Jesse James
Ben Roethlisberger has been on fire. Le’Veon Bell is an every week starter. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant will benefit from Antonio Brown being out.
Start: WR DeAndre Hopkins
Sleeper: RB Lamar Miller
DeAndre Hopkins is the best offensive weapon the Texans have.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Houston Texans: Offense vs Defense Comparison
Steelers Offense: Steelers average 393.4 YPG | Texans allow 354.7 YPG
Rushing: Steelers average 102.8 YPG | Texans allow 106.9 YPG
Passing: Steelers average 290.6 YPG | Texans allow 247.8 YPG
Scoring: Steelers average 24.6 PPG | Texans allow 27.1 PPG
Steelers Defense: Steelers allow 307.8 YPG | Texans average 356.8 YPG
Rushing: Steelers allow 101.1 YPG | Texans average 112.9 YPG
Passing: Steelers allow 206.7 YPG | Texans average 243.9 YPG
Scoring: Steelers allow 19.9 PPG | Texans average 22.8 PPG
Injury Report (12/23/2017)
Out: WR Antonio Brown (Calf)
Questionable: G Ramon Foster (Concussion), CB Coty Sensabaugh (Shoulder)
Out: QB Tom Savage (Concussion)
Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Schedule
Friday, Aug. 11 @ New York Giants W, 20-12 (KDKA)
Sunday, Aug. 20 ATLANTA W, 17-13 (KDKA)
Saturday, Aug. 26 INDIANAPOLIS L, 19-15 (KDKA)
Thursday, Aug. 31 @ Carolina W, 17-14 (KDKA)
REGULAR SEASON (11-3)
Sunday, Sept. 10 @ Cleveland 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 21-18
Sunday, Sept. 17 MINNESOTA 1 p.m. (FOX), W– 26-9
Sunday, Sept. 24 @ Chicago 1 p.m. (CBS), L- 17-23
Sunday, Oct. 1 @ Baltimore 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 26-9
Sunday, Oct. 8 JACKSONVILLE 1 p.m. (CBS), L- 9-30
Sunday, Oct. 15 @ Kansas City 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W– 19-13
Sunday, Oct. 22 CINCINNATI 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W– 29-14
Sunday, Oct. 29 @ Detroit* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W– 20-15
Sunday, Nov. 5 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Nov. 12 @ Indianapolis* 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 20-17
Thursday, Nov. 16 TENNESSEE 8:25 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon), W– 40-17
Sunday, Nov. 26 GREEN BAY* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W– 31-28
Monday, Dec. 4 @ Cincinnati 8:30 p.m. (ESPN), W– 23-20
Sunday, Dec. 10 BALTIMORE* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W– 39-38
Sunday, Dec. 17 NEW ENGLAND* 4:25 p.m. (CBS), L- 24-27
Monday, Dec. 25 @ Houston 4:30 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon)
Sunday, Dec. 31 CLEVELAND* 1 p.m. (CBS)
* – Times may change due to ﬂexible scheduling
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 6-7 Wild Card Weekend
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 13-14 Divisional Playoﬀ Games
Sunday, Jan. 21 Conference Championships
Sunday, Jan. 28 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, Feb. 4 Super Bowl LII (Minneapolis, Minn.)Follow @PghSportsNation