Ross Jacobs has been an FFM correspondent on NFL games and NFL Draft matters for the past few years. He is going to be writing up some of his notes on various games he’s watching/studying this year. Typically, he will have written/submitted his work before mine, so this is a look at the same game with different eyes...and you can compare and contrast or find some new takeaways.
2020 Week 3 Analysis: Texans @ Steelers (By Ross Jacobs)
-The Texans started strong here grabbing a 14-3 lead behind two very nice drives where Watson was given time to calmly pick apart the Steeler defense. Pittsburgh answered with a drive of their own and then grabbed the lead shortly after on a busted coverage TD throw to Juju. The Texans then made their way down the field during the two-minute drill to retake the lead. At halftime the Texans led 21-17 and had arguably outplayed the Steelers. Unfortunately they never scored again because the Steelers ramped up their pressure and never let Watson get comfortable. Pittsburgh's RB's sealed the deal by repeatedly gashing the Houston run defense for large chunks to salt away the clock. A day that started so promising for Houston ended in disappointment and frustration.
-Poor Houston. It's no secret that they have played three of the AFC's very best teams the first three weeks of the season. This was the only one they looked remotely competitive in, but it shows that they are probably going to be ok as the season wears on. I see a path to 9 wins, but they need to win both games against the Jaguars, every game against the NFC North other than the Packers, the Browns and Bengals, and then win 2 of 4 against the Titans and Colts. That's a lot to ask, but I think it's reasonable. This isn't a bad team by any means. There's not much room for error though. Luckily most of those games are against teams that are at or near the bottom of the league rankings. It's possible.
-One issue they desperately need to address is their poor run defense. I didn't notice it quite so much the first two weeks and mostly just chalked up the huge numbers they allowed to the KC and Baltimore offenses. Baltimore especially was known for having a strong running game. But after watching James Conner look like a star against them and Kansas City struggle to replicate that success against other teams, I have to admit there's a serious problem. I haven't been able to pinpoint the source of the issue just yet, but there's clearly something going on because they can't stop anyone from running the ball straight down their throats.
-The offense should be in better shape. They finally woke up here, at least for a half. The Steelers have a pretty nasty defense though, so I don't fault them for getting shut out in the second half. It happens sometimes. Things should get better when Watson isn't under constant siege.
-The Steelers are obviously one of the better teams in the league, but I'm having a tough time getting on board with them as one of the favorites. I'm still seeing way too much James Conner for my taste. This offense is capable of so much more if they would just air it out, but Mike Tomlin is in love with his mediocre local hero RB. This should be an aerial circus with Juju, Diontae, Claypool, and McDonald as the starting group and Washington and Ebron as rotational guys, but instead we get the run-to-nowhere show featuring the most average back I've ever seen. Until Pittsburgh figures this out I can't get behind them as a top-tier team. They are simply sacrificing too many possible points that they will need if they hope to beat the Chiefs and Ravens of the world.
-This Pittsburgh defense is pretty good, but there will be moments where they give up some points when the pass rush doesn't get to the QB. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Two players in particular that stood out here were Vince Williams and Mike Hilton. Williams was up in Watson's face all night and made several great run-stuffing plays as well, and Hilton was a tackling machine at cornerback and also snagged an interception. This is such a great group all the way around. There are no weaknesses at any level.
-We knew David Johnson was going to have a rough time here. It's been a terrible start for him, but I really think you should hang in there with him. He's got one more tough run defense this week in the Vikings, but he might find a little more success than he did against Pittsburgh. After this week the schedule eases up a lot and he should settle in as a strong weekly option.
-Figures that just as Dionate Johnson breaks out he gets hurt and sent into concussion protocol. It's been that kind of year so far for many FFM'ers. Luckily it's not a more serious issue and Dionate should be back in a week or two. He should be ready to go for the rest of the year after that.
-I want to continue my recommendation to sell Conner high if you have him, but it's hard when his team is so committed to him. The schedule isn't very forgiving though. There are a few weeks where the Steelers will face softer run defenses like Cincinnati, Dallas, and Tennessee, but they also have to face several very tough matchups like Indy, Cleveland, Philly, Buffalo, and Baltimore. Those last five are all top 10 run defenses. It's a tough call at this point, but I don't believe in his talent and even though the team seems committed to getting him touches for now I think he's going to have a very rude awakening when he's got better competition trying to stop him. My recommendation is to play him against Tennessee this week and then trade him hot.