Week 3 At Steelers: 3 Texans 'Fulcrum-Point' Players To Watch
Anthony R Wood
With the potential for another 0-3 start to the NFL season looming, the Houston Texans head to Heinz Field to take on the 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers. As Bill O'Brien's team look to wipe the slate clean on their disappointing 2020 season to date, here are SI's three Texans to watch for in Week 3.
Johnson & Johnson, RB
The Texans currently have the most expensive running back duo in the NFL, and yet, to date, we have yet to the return the franchise will have hoped for. It all began with Duke Johnson suffering a sprained ankle in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, with David Johnson, therefore, having to shoulder the load against the Baltimore Ravens.
Combine these with an offensive line that has struggled consistently block effectively, all in all, it hasn't been an ideal start for the Johnson duo.
After another week listed as limited on the Texans injury report, Duke heads to Pittsburgh officially questionable to play. After O'Brien stated on Friday that he was "trending in the right direction," there was a chance we may see him return on Sunday. ...
But alas, no.
Tim Kelly's offense used two-back sets to great effect in Week 1 and throughout last season. The absence of Duke was clear to see in Week 2 as the Texans' run game struggled to have much of an impact. The return of Duke would not only open up their ground game but help in their protection of quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Adding another dual-threat player to this offense would stand them in better stead if they are to pull off an upset against head coach Mike Tomlin's Steelers. Houston called up C.J. Prosise to the varsity this weekend, a hint that Duke might not go.
So it's more burden on the other Johnson.
Jonathan Greenard, OLB
Rookie seasons are rarely a walk in the park. That being said, sticking with the go-for-a-walk metaphor, Greenard hasn't even left the house yet.
Suffering from a hamstring injury that has left him inactive to date, the third-round pick out of Florida was not listed on this week's injury report and, therefore, he has a chance of making his NFL debut this Sunday.
The Texans currently rank 29th in the league in quarterback pressures (117), and 31st in quarterback hurries (44). Granted, they have gone up against two of the most efficient offenses in football, but their lack of a consistent pass rush has been clear to see regardless.
Greenard cannot be expected to turn the fortunes of this defense alone, but his presence can only be beneficial. His track record is impressive; 10 sacks, four defended passes, and three forced fumbles his final year in college prove his pass-rushing abilities. And if stats alone aren't enough to convince, you, then watch his tape.
Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus said on Friday that making Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger uncomfortable in the pocket will be key.
Greenard could help make this goal a reality.
J.J. Watt, DE/DT/Superman
The battle of the Watt brothers is upon us. T.J. and Derek of the Steelers and J.J. of the Texans will step onto the field on Sunday for a game neither they nor their family will forget. As such, how could we not include J.J. on our list?
The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is fresh of a strong game in Week 2 where he registered his first two sacks of the season, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, and a defended pass. All this despite only playing 74% of their defensive snaps.
J.J. certainly found his mojo once again, and as such he's a player to watch ... and a pivot point in Houston's chances of winning on Sunday.