The miserable 2019 season is quickly being dispatched into the rear ore mirror. Sunday, the Steelers got a win to extend their early-season record to a perfect 3-0.
While it’s certainly a good thing, the Steelers opponents combined record so far is 0-9. So clearly, the competition hasn’t been too tough early on. However, in years past, those types of teams were the ones the Steelers struggled to beat.
Nonetheless, there’s a lot to like and not to like through the first three games. As things heat up heading into a matchup with the also undefeated Titans next Sunday, let’s take a look at my takeaways and thoughts from their 28-21 win over Houston.
T.J. got the best of the Watt brother battle
T.J. Watt continued his havoc this week, adding another sack to his early Defensive Player of the Year resume. He had four tackles, two for a loss and added four quarterback hits as well.
Despite quarterback Deshaun Watson’s shiftiness, Watt found him early and often in this contest.
On the other side of the field, J.J. Watt was fairly quiet. He also had four tackles, but no sacks and no quarterback hits. The usually disruptive defensive end was shut down masterfully by young right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor.
Obviously, fullback Derek Watt participated too. He didn’t fill up the stat sheet but continued to be a key in the run game blocking for James Conner’s second straight 100-yard rushing performance.
The Steelers Watt brothers triumphed J.J.’s team and outplayed the eldest brother.
Afterward, T.J. said it was special to watch his idol, J.J., from the sidelines and to see him use his craft at field level. It was definitely a top moment in the game. However, the Steelers got the last laugh for a couple of reasons.
Is a healthy Conner a top back in the league?
Funny how things can change.
Just two weeks ago, I was clamoring to start Benny Snell for the foreseeable future. Snell has since disappointed in his opportunities while Conner has overwhelmingly been the Steelers’ best skill player on offense the last two weeks.
With 149 all-purpose yards and a rushing touchdown on the day, Conner again proved his undeniable talent. At the University of Pitt, Conner was well on his way to being the best back in school history. Cancer slowed him down. He’s continued to battle injury trouble in the NFL, leaving some to wonder if cancer took a toll on his body.
But when he’s healthy, Conner has proven to be a big-time talent.
I said at the season’s beginning, if Conner gets hurt and plays poorly, the Steelers will happily move on. If Conner does well, he likely priced himself out of the Steelers’ range. The story is great. So is the human being. But with some of the important deals coming up here soon, extending Conner shouldn’t be something Steelers fans should expect to happen following the season.
Containing Watson was 100% the key. The Steelers passed with flying colors.
Watson is an elite quarterback that has been put in a bad situation. He has no offensive line, and his best wide receiver was traded for an aging, overpaid running back—yucky combo.
But, here we are, five more sacks on the Steelers’ league-leading total. That’s pretty impressive against Watson, who ran for his life most of Sunday.
They also found a way to let Watson run only once for five yards. Eventually, the Steelers were too much for Watson, and he couldn’t really find a consistent groove.
That’s the sign of a great defense. Get pressure, sustain it, and be ready to pounce when you smell blood. Pittsburgh is really becoming a force to be reckoned with defensively.
Steelers finally bit by the injury bug
Sunday, the Steelers lost wide receiver Diontae Johnson due to a concussion. Johnson has been ready to show he has taken another step as the main core guy.
With concussions, it’s impossible to predict the results of concussion. Johnson will have to go through concussion protocol to return.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Chase Claypool can carry the load for the time being but the Steelers need a win here.
Toughest test in coming for Steelers
As previously noted, the Steelers opponents so far are a combined 0-9. That bodes well. However, you’ve got to make sure they come prepared Sunday.
The Titans are no joke. Defensively, they’re as sound as they look. With stars on that side of the ball, they’ll be sure to wreak havoc next Sunday.
The Titans also come in at 3-0, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been perfect for the Titans offense. He hasn’t thrown any picks, and he has a workhorse in Derrick Henry who can rush 25 times a game.
There is definitely a lot of buzz around next week’s game already. As there should be.
It’ll be a great time watching the Steelers try to continue their unbeaten season against another unbeaten team. This is a very winnable game for the Steelers, but they’ll need to win it to keep the Tomlin haters from rising.