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|10-20-2014, 10:20 AM||#1|
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Relentless Watt, Texans go for signature win vs. Steelers
J.J. Watt isn't the kind of player to walk into a coach's office and make demands.
The way the Houston Texans defensive end is playing, there's no need. The ball seems to end up in his hands regardless of where he lines up, whether it's on the defensive line or during the occasional snap at tight end.
"He never lobbies," coach Bill O'Brien said. "He doesn't do that. There are other guys that lobby for things, but he's not a lobbyist."
What Watt is — at the moment anyway — is the most dominant defensive force in the NFL, even if the Texans (3-3) are hardly a finished product heading into Monday night's game at Pittsburgh (3-3).
And for all the ridiculously athletic plays Watt has made over the season's first six weeks, he'd trade his own burgeoning MVP candidacy for the first significant victory of O'Brien's tenure.
The truth is, for all the fireworks Watt has provided, the Texans have just 10 sacks and are 27th in total defense. That's not exactly the way to make inroads on Indianapolis in the AFC South.
"Obviously up front, we need to get after the passer," Watt said. "That's what I can control in my group. We need to get after the passer, we need to be sound in our coverages in what we do and put pressure on guys, and obviously we knock out some of those plays and it'll be a big help."
Yards haven't been an issue for the Steelers. Points, however, are another matter entirely. Pittsburgh's offense sputters to a halt whenever it nears the end zone.
The Steelers have only turned seven of their 19 possessions inside the opponent's 20 into touchdowns, a major reason they have alternated wins and losses despite having what quarterback Ben Roethlisberger described as the franchise's most explosive attack in his 11-year career.
"We've got to find a way to score," left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. "It's not magic or secret to it. We've just got to get it done."
Some things to look for as the Texans try to snap a two-game losing streak and the Steelers attempt to bounce back from a debacle in Cleveland that marked the franchise's worst loss to its closest rival in 25 years.
CLOSE CLOWNEY: Houston's pass rush might get a needed boost with the possible return of rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who has missed the past five games with a knee injury. O'Brien said there's a "50/50" chance Clowney could play, a move that would force the Steelers to shift some of their attention away from Watt.
BOUNTIFUL BELL: Pittsburgh second-year running back Le'Veon Bell has blossomed into one of the league's best all-around backs. He is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage and is second on the Steelers in receptions (28) behind star wide receiver Antonio Brown. Yet Bell has just one touchdown, a 38-yard sprint against Cleveland in the opener.
POOR PRESSURE: While Houston isn't getting to the quarterback with regularity, at least the Texans are disruptive. That's not the case in Pittsburgh, which has just nine sacks and allowed unheralded opponents such as Brian Hoyer and Mike Glennon to put up big numbers.
Coach Mike Tomlin called out his outside linebackers, saying they need to be more disruptive. Jason Worilds, making more than $9 million this season, has just two sacks.
"He's had some good games and performance in pockets of games, and he's had some games where he's been less impactful," Tomlin said of Worilds. "We're compensating him to be consistently impactful and that's what we're searching for."
FEELING POSSESSED: The Texans know one way to help out their defense is to keep the offense on the field. It's not happening with any regularity. Houston is 16th in time of possession (29:43) because of some issues on third down.
The Texans are converting just 37 percent (28 of 76) of their third downs. Lengthier drives would help keep Watt fresh even if the possessions don't necessarily result in points.
"You always love the explosive plays and I'm not saying we want to avoid those, I'm saying we want to be able to string together some first downs, some good drives, keep the defense off the field and control the tempo," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said.
NO PANIC: A 21-point thumping by the Browns hasn't set off alarms with the Steelers.
"There's no time to panic," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "You guys are waiting for us to panic. We're not panicking."
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