What a difference a week makes! In a span of six days, the Pittsburgh Steelers went from being out-coached, out-played, and nearly kept out of the end zone, to arguably one of the top four teams in the NFL.
Okay, that last part may be a stretch, to say the least. But heading into October, the fact is that there are only three other teams (San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Miami) in the entire league that have a better record than the Steelers’ 2-1 mark.
How did they do it?
By playing what head coach Mike Tomlin likes to call “complementary football”. Both the offense and defense have improved over the last two games. They’re still a work in progress of course, but they’ve made the plays when they’ve needed to in order to head into Sunday’s game at Houston winners of two straight.
Let’s start with the defense, which has had a “bend but not break” mentality since looking like the “Swiss Curtain” in a 30-7 season-opening home loss to the 49ers.
The Steelers’ defense couldn’t get off the field that day, allowing the visitors to convert 50 percent (7-of-14) of their conversions on third and fourth down. In the two games since, against the Browns and Raiders, the Steelers’ defense has held their opponents to a 30 percent (10-of-33) rate of conversion on third and fourth down.
In addition, the Steelers’ defense has allowed just 20 points per game since the 49ers’ contest. That mark would rank a respectable 12th in the NFL if you could take away the first game. But you can’t, so overall, Pittsburgh is allowing 23.3 points per game to rank tied for 19th in the league.
And yet, the arrow is still pointing up for the Steelers’ defense, despite the fact that they’ve allowed 1,161 yards of total offense — a mark that ranks as the fifth-most allowed in the NFL thus far.
That’s because Pittsburgh has been extremely opportunistic on the defensive side of the ball the last two games. Besides their always-potent sack attack, the Steelers rank second in the NFL with eight turnovers caused this season, including seven in the past two games.
Two of those turnovers resulted in defensive touchdowns against the Browns, lifting Pittsburgh to a 26-22 victory. And three interceptions against the Raiders was a huge difference maker in Sunday’s 23-18 win at Las Vegas.
Offensively, coordinator Matt Canada called his best game this season against the Raiders. The Steelers had a nice balanced attack (31 rushes, 28 passes), posting season-highs for passing yards (228), rushing yards (105), first downs (17) and offensive points scored (23).
The offensive line, which allowed five sacks against the 49ers, is also starting to figure things out. The unit allowed only one sack against the Raiders and two against the Browns.
Can the Steelers keep their resurgence going in Week 4 when they travel to Houston to take on a Texans’ team that just whipped Jacksonville, on the road, to notch their first win of the season?
We’ll find out soon. But until then, here are three things you need to know about the Steelers’ important Week 4 matchup with the Texans: