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Three And Out: Useless Predictions For Steelers-Texans

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Last week's predictions weren't a total failure. Part of me is tempted to get out of the prediction game while I still can. Settle down, raise a family, work a regular job...that all sounds real nice. Unfortunately, I can't change what I am. And what I am, my friends, is a moron with a weekly in-season predictions hack job that masquerades as a running feature here at BRB. It's part of me, and I can't turn my back on it.

Until I get lazy and skip a week, anyway.

On to this week's predictions sure to go horribly, horribly wrong!

1. Arian Foster makes a triumphant return to the starting lineup and GOES OFF. Not just in the running game (20 carries for 91 yards and a TD), but also in the passing game (6 receptions for 63 yards and a TD). The latter is of particularly great benefit, as Matt Schaub is able to get the ball to Foster (as well as James Casey and Owen Daniels) quickly in order to combat the Steelers' pressure.

2. There's been a lot of talk this week about how banged up and/or ineffective the Steelers' offensive line is. Whereas this would not have mattered to the 2010 Texans, who would have gotten lit up to the tune of 425 yards of total offense regardless, it will matter to the 2011 Texans, and they will take advantage of Pittsburgh's ailing OL. Problem is, Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best, if not the best, at keeping a play alive in the face of pressure.

/waits for everyone to make totally original joke about Roethlisberger

That, coupled with the sad reality that Kareem Jackson is still starting at corner (thus meaning Roethelisberger does not need to extend plays to target Ice Kareem's assignment), makes me think the Steelers will be able to move the ball through the air. It won't be a bloodletting, mind you; the Houston secondary on balance is solid enough that we won't see anything resembling what we might have seen last year. But when the Steelers go four or five wide, forcing Troy Nolan and Kareem Jackson onto the field (apparently because Brandon Harris ate his salad with his dinner fork, thus damning him to the fourteenth spot on the DB depth chart)? I remain concerned. Roethelisberger will get hit, but he will manage to throw for 243 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT.

3. Those sorts of numbers from Roethlisberger bode well for the Texans, don't they? It's not like he's throwing for 300+ yards, 3 TDs, and no turnovers. That's a testament to what I believe the Texans' pass rush, in concert with Pittsburgh's OL, will do on Sunday. Unfortunately, I think the Steelers, even with their OL problems, will be able to run the ball straight up the middle of the Texans' defense.

That's not an indictment of DeMeco Ryans or Brian Cushing. It's an indictment of the fact that Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell are still your NTs, and they won't be able to keep anyone off the Texans' linebackers. There's a reason 84% of the rushing plays directed at the Houston defense have been categorized as up the middle: It works. For all of the concern about Rashard Mendenhall tip-toeing through the tulips instead of hitting the hole, I expect a big game from him as Pittsburgh exploits the middle. In other words, TDC's concerns are wholly justified. Mendenhall finishes with a TD and 118 rushing yards on 22 carries.

PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: I'm stunned at the amount of love the Texans are receiving this week. Seems like the overwhelming majority of talking heads, columnists, and fans are picking the Texans to handle the Steelers. With ease, even. I'm not sure I'm ready to live in a world where all of the participants in Battle Red Radio pick the Texans to beat the Steelers. I don't even know who those guys are anymore.

While I know the Steelers may be vulnerable, I can't pick them to lose to the Texans on Sunday. I have visions of Dick LeBeau's boys getting into Schaub's kitchen all afternoon and forcing a late-game turnover that ultimately allows the Steelers to walk out of Houston with a win. Steelers 24, Texans 21.

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