Houston Texans @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Texans offense came out hot by scoring 21 points in the first half. They then failed to score in the second half and the Steelers, behind a late James Conner rushing score, were victorious 28-21. The Steelers improve to 3-0 on the year and the Texans fall to 0-3 after just a brutal opening three matchups (Chiefs, Ravens, and Steelers).
Deshaun Watson: 19/27, 264 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int, 5 Sacks | 1 carry, 5 yards
Deshaun Watson had this offense rolling early on. He hit 14 of 18 passes for 203 yards to start the game with two touchdown passes. After that, he only completed five passes on 13 dropbacks for 62 yards. He was under constant duress today. The Texans have allowed the highest percentage of pressure in the league and were facing off against the league’s most blitz-happy defenses. With Houston up 21-20 in the fourth quarter, Watson made a poor decision throwing into double coverage that led to a Steelers interception. The Steelers’ ensuing drive led to the game-sealing touchdown. Watson and the Texans will look to beat up on a poor Minnesota defense next week and he should be started with confidence.
David Johnson: 13 carries, 23 yards, 1 TD | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 23 yards
With Duke Johnson inactive today due to injury, David Johnson had 16 of the 17 running back opportunities. He had nowhere to run behind this mismatched offensive line and averaged less than two yards per carry. His day was saved when he ran in a short 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter. As we saw today, Johnson isn’t going to be too involved in the passing game like he was in Arizona. He only has 11 targets through three games and three or four targets seem right most weeks for him. The matchups get easier for Johnson going forward and we are encouraged by his usage so far this season as he is the clear lead-back in this offense that should be trending up.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Will Fuller: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 54 yards, 1 TD
Bradon Cooks: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 23 yards
Randall Cobb: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD
Jordan Akins.: 3 targets, 2 reception, 28 yards
Kenny Stills: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 35 yards
Will Fuller had a nice bounce-back game from his doughnut last week against the Ravens. He had a beautiful catch on a red-zone fade route in the second quarter. He was tied for the team lead in targets and should be the preferred option in this passing game week in and week out and a confident WR2/3 play against the Vikings. Randall Cobb had a nice 28-yard catch and run in the first quarter that went for a touchdown. Cobb has caught a crisp 84.6 percent of his passes this season but he just isn’t getting enough volume through three games to be trusted in most leagues. No one else in this passing game did much of note today and they can’t be trusted on a weekly basis as of now.
Ben Roethlisberger: 23/36, 237 yards, 2 TDs, 2 Sacks | 3 carries, -2 yards
Ben Roethlisberger had a solid day against this poor Texans defense. He did all his damage without his most targeted receiver this season in Diontae Johnson, who left this game early with a concussion. He still hit newcomer Eric Ebron with a red-zone touchdown and JuJu Smith-Schuster had a nice catch-and-run on his touchdown reception. It is concerning that Roethlisberger struggled on his deep attempts (20+ yards downfield). He didn’t connect on any of his six attempts and connected on three of seven intermediate throws (10-19 yards downfield). Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense travel to Tennessee next week to face a banged-up Titans secondary.
James Conner: 18 carries, 109 yards, 1 TD | 5 targets, 4 receptions, 40 yards
Benny Snell: 7 carries, 11 yards
Anthony McFarland: 6 carries, 42 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards
For the second week in a row James Conner had a majority of the running back work including a solid passing game role. He had 23 opportunities and had a nice red-zone touchdown on the ground. He has a decent matchup against the Titans next week and should be considered on the RB1/RB2 line. It is concerning that the Steelers gave three running backs work in this one instead of their usual two. Rookie Anthony McFarland got in his first game today and looked explosive on his seven touches. Benny Snell was a complimentary back again and was unsuccessful on his seven carries. I would not be shocked if McFarland took over the Snell role and was the main complimentary back to James Conner sooner rather than later.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
JuJu Smith-Schuster: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 43 yards, 1 TD
Diontae Johnson: 2 targets, 0 receptions
Eric Ebron: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 52 yards, 1 TD
Chase Claypool: 4 targets, 1 reception, 24 yards
James Washington: 7 targets, 5 reception, 36 yards
Diontae Johnson went down early in this one and did not do anything on the two targets he had. James Washington took over his role today and was tied for the team lead in targets but didn’t do a whole lot on the seven opportunities. JuJu Smith-Schuster has now scored in two of three games but still isn’t getting the volume we drafted him for. He has 19 targets through three games and has been very efficient (catching 17 of 19 targets) and has three scores. Hopefully, the volume comes as the season progresses but right now he is just a mid WR2. Chase Claypool didn’t produce much today thanks to Roethlisberger’s inefficiencies with the deep ball. Eric Ebron had increased volume today most likely thanks to the Johnson injury. He produced well on his opportunities but is a tight end streamer most weeks, needing touchdowns to produce value.
-Kevin Taylor (@ktbeast918 on Twitter)