More Steelers Texans Observations

I have gone through the tape a few times now and am starting a 3rd time through to start charting, but I have enough info to give a more in-depth recap of what I saw Sunday against the Houston Texans. Below are my liner notes from the game.

The Texans opening drive set the tone for the whole game. The Steelers defensive line was blown off the ball and very few times did Aaron Smith, Ziggy Hood or Casey Hampton stay squared to the line during the first few drives. Hampton seemed to be more concerned about being cut and chopped. Hood had the best game of all the lineman and that is not saying much. He was able to get some pressure albeit not a lot. Smith had a few run penetrations and his highlight film likely consisted of about 3 plays. Most of the day he was being pushed around until he left with a foot sprain. Rookie Cameron Heyward saw some time as well, but got hung up a few times inside. The Texans used their multiple tight ends to set the edges well. They did a good job in controlling James Harrison most of the game.

The linebacker play was really disturbing. Once again LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons were non-existent. Timmons had an early pass break up, but he and Woodley were having problems fighting off blocks in the running game and both did not do a good job tackling. Woodley took a bad angle on the Arian Foster touchdown run and when he tried to recover with his tackle he ended up wiping out Troy Polamalu in the process. Larry Foote and James Farrior were pretty bad as well inside. Both missed a few key tackles and took bad angles in the running game. Farrior was run away from on the long Owen Daniels reception on first down in the fourth quarter and the very next play was the Foster touchdown run. Both those plays came after the Texans converted a key 3rd down to Daniels from their own 19.

Polamalu and Ryan Clark led the defense in tackles. You never want to see both your safeties lead that stat. The secondary played well for the most part as Andre Johnson was the only Texans wide receiver to catch a pass. The Steelers caught a break when he left with his hamstring injury. The problem is quarterback Matt Schaub only had to throw 21 times on the day and 10 of his 14 completions went to a tight end or a running back. They did not even try to go vertical much as there was no real need to the way they were running the ball.

The Steelers offensive line remains a mess and was beaten off the snap most of the game. The run blocking had it\’s moments in the second half as Isaac Redman was able to get a few nice runs between the tackles. Perhaps the best run came on the toss to the right that Rashard Mendenhall took in for the score. David Johnson did a good job out on the edge with a block that made it happen. That was about it though for Johnson on the day. Roethlisberger was under pressure most of the day and sacked 5 times. It very easily could have been 8 times. Maybe more. Texans cornerback Jonathan Joseph did a good job holding Mike Wallace pretty much in check. Wallace caught all 4 balls thrown his way. The taunting penalty was pretty much BS though. Players jaw all game at each other and if that is what drew the flag, that is sad. Roethlisberger did complete a few nice back shoulder throws on the day to Antonio Brown. He also missed him on what looked like an easy touchdown. Brown also missed a key hot read in the game and is making a habit of that this season. Emmanuel Sanders, Hines Ward, Heath Miller and Jerricho Cotchery were pretty non existent as the Texans concentrated on taking away the middle of the field. The pressure was so heavy that Roethlisberger did not even have time for a few dump-offs.

I have yet to breakdown the offensive line yet, but it will not be pretty. The penalty that Maurkice Pouncey took late in the first half was stupid as the Steelers would have been 1st and 10 at the Texans 6. Instead the Steelers settled for a field goal attempt that was blocked and they were lucky the Texans were flagged for an illegal block on Daniel Sepulveda. The line had limited success with some inside trap blocking, but a few times Chris Kemoeatu got caught in the wash of a penetrating defensive lineman. This game will not be pretty grade wise once again. Trai Essex is not a left tackle, but we knew that headed into the game. Not pretty and Roethlisberger paid for it.

The bright spot once again was the punting of Sepulveda. He averaged 50.5 yards on 4 punts and had 1 inside the 20. It is never a good sign when you have to dig that deep for a bright spot. Some more special teams notes. I am not sure what Brown was thinking when he fair caught one of the punts at the 6. I am sure he will get an earful for that.

The Steelers failed to record a sack on Sunday and failed to create a turnover. On the season they have just 1 turnover and it came last week against the Colts. This better change quickly as the Steelers are now -10 in the turnover differential stat. Although the Steelers converted 42% of their 3rd downs, they allowed the Texans to convert 50% of theirs. The 5.4 yards per carry stat for the Steelers is a bit misleading, but a welcome sight. The game was never close as the scoreboard said either as the Texans committed 9 penalties on the day. Both sides of the ball have a lot of improvement to make and it looks like a few more players might be down with injuries next week against the Titans. Maybe even Roethlisberger who was seen in a boot and on crutches after the game.

If this game was a measuring stick, the Steelers came up real short. It is still early and 2-2 is not the death punch. The team needs to string a few wins together quickly.

  • I rewatched the D-line carefully and Aaron Smith had an absolutely terrible first quarter. He was getting manhandled all over the place and was caught many times not shedding blocks while the runner ran right by him. He had a good tackle in the eleventh minute of the second period, he got punished again in the third period. He looked slow, stiff, and unfocused – a shell of his former ferocious efforts. While the secondary was better, Lewis needs to play to the whistle as he was caught stopping before the whistle with the runner stalled behind a pileup in the backfield. Had he continued playing, he could have easily tackled the runner deep in Houston’s backfield. I’m not sure what the heck has happened to the LB’s, they’re not even coming close to the quarterback. Meanwhile, a MUCH older linebacker named Harrison who is recovering from two back surgeries is the guy making the plays – the big hits. These multi-millionaire LB’s should be embarrased at the way they’ve played so far this year. Oh…and the Trai Essex left OT experiment failed miserably – allowing two sacks back to back on missed blocking assignments?!?! UGH! Tomlin had better rethink this, “going with the guys we got” garbage or it’s gonna be a long season. Also, WHEN is the coaching staff going to start realizing that Mendenhall (no matter how ripped he is) ain’t cutting it compared with Redman and Moore and just about anyone else who is plugged in there? Too much dancing and not enough tough running.

  • Hog’s_Snout

    enigma was once a batman movie character. now it’s Tomlin and Bruce Aryans. rim shot!

  • Was Wallace a target 1 time in the 2nd half? I dont think he was. Too many penalties, not enough blocking by anyone including Pouncey! Where were the adjustments made to them having so much pressure on basically every snap? I didnt see any roll outs or wr screens in 2nd half. Our wrs in general do a bad job of recognizing blitzs and adjusting their routes period. When will our o-line move when the other team jumps off sides? They can move once tehy have set for the play but game after game I see the same thing happen, guy jumps off sides our center dont snap the ball (he mightve been looking elsewhere) AND none of our other linemen ever move to get the encroachment flag thrown! We have terrible clock management too. Too many times have I seen us rush to line up a play when the quarter is about to end or the 2 minute warning is approaching. It’s funny how we signed this guy to be the 1st gm is Steelers history but has he really done that great of a job? We have 1 o lineman and hes in his 2nd year. We have 0 cb other than Ike. We traded up for 1st time ever to get Troy but was this guy involved I’m not so sue about that. Ben fell to us and we had to take him especially after not taking Marino years ago! In my opinion there are too many holes in the Steelers roster for this guy to be getting so much credit.

  • Pmschwenzfeier

    Since the Texans had only 3 wide receivers, why not switch to a 4-3 defensive scheme and make a serious effort to stop the run?

  • The Truth

    It looks like Ariens and Lebeau have checked out early and so has the rest of the team. Neither of these coordinaters will be back next year and apathy has set in.

  • kevin

    I thought the Pouncey call was BS too. It appeared that the Pouncey hit was unnecessary but before the whistle was blown. They called it a late hit. So their four guys can continue to hit our ball carrier who is going down, but our guys can’t continue to block until the whistle. That was not a kemo block by Pouncey.

  • kevin

    The Steelers don’t have the personnel for a 4-3 alignment as a base defense. Also, the 3-4 alignment as run by the Steelers tends to be a better run stopping unit than a base 4-3 alignment.

  • They don’t have the personnel for a legit 4-3 defense, but they do have the players to run a hybrid 4-3, similar to what Baltimore runs.

  • Thomas

    so now can they actually get serious about O-line the way Baltimore is looking with that new Zone Stretch running game he brought with him from Houston and that defense looking better then last year they’l be lucky to make the playoffs. I thought the next 2 games would be softballs but I dont know now, shortly after that they have to go to New England. This just can’t go on, they have got to DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! The Arrow is pointing down…

  • whoolrids

    Oh yes, the Linebackers forgot how to tackle, wtf?? What’s going on Mr. Lebeau?

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I know we are struggling…but why is everyone quick to throw out our systems when they have worked for years. Its not the system but the personal and coaching.

  • Kevin

    Not if you want any rotation among the lineman.