Friday, September 30, 2011

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Let's hope it's not the heart of darkness instead of the heart of Texas.  This is going to be a tough game for the Steelers.

The offensive line, which was shaky anyway, looks even more so today with the announcement that starting right guard Doug Legursky and starting left tackle Jonathan Scott have been ruled out of the game in Houston, as has defensive end Brett Keisel.  Yikes.

That means three-fifths of the offensive line that started the season will miss Sunday's game in Houston.  Ramon Foster will replace Legursky, and Trai Essex will step in at left tackle for Scott.  Rookie Marcus Gilbert will start once again at right tackle in place of Willie Colon, who started the first game but was placed on injured reserve following the opener at Baltimore.  Ziggy Hood will play instead of Keisel.

Worrisome, too, will be the status of star receiver Mike Wallace, who is nursing sore ribs sustained in the Colts game Sunday night. Maybe the sore ribs are why, after having a huge first quarter, Wallace seemed to disappear from the game plan.  Let's hope he's okay.  If not, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown will have to step up.

If the Texans make this game a shootout, look out.

Not particularly optimistic, but ...

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls don't feel particularly optimistic about the Steelers' game vs. the Houston Texans on Sunday, but ... this is the kind of game the Steelers win.

It's tough to feel all too good about this game, however, as the Texans view this is as a Statement Game at home. It seems every Steelers' opponent views their match-up with Pittsburgh that way, as a Statement Game, to prove they are just as physically rough-and-tumble as the Steelers. 

The trouble is, some of them (Baltimore anyway) are proving to be right. And, as much as Houston's identity on offense is as a high-flying aerial show (they lead the NFL with pass completions of more than 20 yards), their attack is basically ground-based and a successful one at that, averaging 138 yards a game and more than four yards per rushing attempt.

The Steelers must stop the run.  It's as simple as that. Last year, stopping the run wasn't even really a question, at an NFL-record 62 yards per game. This year, pheh, stopping the run appears to have become a bit more of a challenge. The Texans have one of the NFL's best offensive lines clearing lanes for a powerful one-two punch in Arian Foster, last year's NFL rushing leader, and Ben Tate, who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry this year. 

It would be nice, too, if the Steelers established their own running game with authority. Y'know, pound the rock, control the clock, keep Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson off the field. Oh, and lest it not be overlooked, running the ball effectively just might help protect the health of our $102 million quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

Since 2006, after all, Roethlisberger has taken the most sacks -- by far -- in the NFL.  Roethlisberger has taken a whopping 230 sacks since 2006. Donovon McNabb is a distant second with 168 sacks taken -- a disparity of 62 sacks between the two.  It's not even close.  Running the ball successfully should reduce some of those hits on Big Ben.

Oh, and by the way, Defense, would it be too much to ask for a turnover or three? 

That's all for now.  We'll have to discuss the Pirates' just-concluded season at some point, but for now, the Steelers take priority.  Having said that, some fans surely are relishing a measure of Schadenfreude in the historic freefall of both the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves.  Do their respective collapses make us Pirates' fans feel somehow better to be merely irrelevant, with yet another 90-loss season?  Hmmm, not so sure about that.

Comments are welcome, below left.