The Steelers should be able to run the football, setting up the play-action pass
Say what you want to say about Najee Harris, but since he stepped foot on Pittsburgh soil he’s always shown the knack for avoiding tackles and making opponents miss. Look for that to happen a lot in this game, as the Texans’ defense ranks 31st in missed tackles (35) this season.
But the Steelers rank 30th in the league in rushing, accounting for 62 attempts and just 201 yards (3.2 yards per attempt; ranks 29th). Meanwhile, the Texans rank in the middle of the pack against the run, allowing 352 rushing yards (4.3 yards per attempt).
Similar to the offensive side of the ball, Texans’ coach Ryans doesn’t have the horses that he had in San Francisco. There’s no Fred Warner at middle linebacker, no Nick Bosa on the edge, etc. They do have some good, young players, such as rookie defensive end Will Anderson, Jr., but veteran defensive tackles Maliek Collins and Sheldon Rankins have struggled thus far this season.
Houston has allowed a league-high seven rushing touchdowns, so there should be opportunities for the Steelers to score their first rushing touchdown of the year. Who would have ever thought that, knowing Pittsburgh’s legendary history of running the football?
If the Steelers are able to establish their running game, that should open the passing lanes for Kenny Pickett to capitalize with his play-action passes. According to Steelerswire and PFF, Pickett was able to do that against the Raiders, completing 6-of-8 and connecting with Austin on the 72-yard bomb that put the Steelers ahead to stay. Pickett also completed 3-of-5 play-action attempts in the win over the Browns, which included his 71-yard touchdown pass to Pickens.
Of course, play-action will also give more opportunities to Steelers’ tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has been relatively quiet thus far despite leading the team with two touchdown receptions. Overall, he only has five catches for 46 yards (9.2 yards per reception) for the season. However, Houston has allowed tight ends to make 16 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown in the last two games.