As the season rolls on we start to see a routine. This is particularly true as we look at the Pro Football Focus (PFF) numbers for the both the Houston Texans and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The opponent’s numbers will be new given that we haven’t seen them before, but the Texans top five will begin to have a familiar look to it.
PFF scores usually range between 20 and 95. We really don’t see top five players with scores below 65. Anyone between 65 and 80 are essentially solid starters. Anyone with a score above 80 is playing at a Pro Bowl level. The closer you get to 95 the closer you get to the top of that position.
Texans top five players
WR Nico Collins— 83.6
CB Steven Nelson— 77.5
WR Tank Dell— 76.6
DE Will Anderson— 75.0
RT George Fant— 71.4
Tavierre Thomas rates above 80, but he is not currently healthy, so we will go with the top five healthy players. We could imagine Laremy Tunsil getting there as soon as he is healthy again. However, we will probably see these names repeated for most of the season. Considering that three of them are fairly recent draftees.
The fascinating thing is seeing which position groups are performing the best. Tank Dell now has 15 catches for 252 yards on the season, More importantly, he now has two touchdowns. Nico Collins has 15 catches for 260 yards. Both are on pace to clear 75 catches and 1,000 yards. That would be a first in franchise history with two different receivers on the same team. It’s a new day in Houston.
Steelers top five players
DE T.J. Watt— 92.2
DL Alex Highsmith— 90.4
LB Markus Golden— 78.5
LB Elandon Roberts— 73.8
DT Keeanu Benson— 73.7
Every player in their top five is in their front seven defensively. That makes them very similar to the Colts and we know how that one turned out. The Texans have improved since then as Stroud continues to get better, but this game could turn out a lot like that game did. Strength vs. strength is always an entertaining battle.
What will the Steelers offense do to the Texans?
Every team will run on the Texans until they prove they can stop it. Clearly, Kenny Pickett has some athleticism and can make some plays, but the Steelers don’t want the ball in his hands with the game on the line. They would rather create turnovers, take advantage of short fields, and get you to be one-dimensional. On offense, that will look like running the ball until the Texans stop it. They aren’t a great running team, but the Texans have not shown they can stop anyone on the ground yet.
What will the Steelers defense do to the Texans?
This is why looking at the PFF scores is so valuable. They have two Pro Bowl defensive lineman and those two have done more damage that most teams completely on their own. The Texans were sacked 11 times in the first two games and we might see a similar output again. This game will come down to whether those two can force a negative play or two and give their offense a short field or even take it into the end zone themselves.
What will the Texans offense do to the Steelers?
Stroud has thrown for more than 900 yards this season. My crack math skills tell me that’s more than 300 per game. I know DeMeco Ryans wants to be a physical running team. They aren’t there yet. What they are is a good passing attack for the first time since 2020. They might even be better than those teams considering the surprising wide receiver depth. They beat the Jags with quick passes that opened up the field for them. Look for them to go back to the well again.
What will the Texans defense do to the Steelers?
In short, you want to force Pickett to beat you. He can run some and he has made some big plays off schedule, but he has yet to prove he can win a shootout consistently. If it comes down to Stroud vs. Pickett you really have to like your chances. That means you key on stopping the run early and force his hand to beat you with his arm. This is a week where Will Anderson needs to make a key play or two to offset what Watt will do the Texans.