Can Steelers Stop Okoye and Williams?
JJ CooperPosted Sep 5th 2008 12:46PM by JJ Cooper (author feed)
Filed under: Steelers, Texans, AFC North
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As we get ready for the Steelers-Texans game, I laid out three things that look good for the Steelers. Now here are three worrisome aspects of the game for Steelers fans.
1. The Steelers offensive line will face a tough test.
Yes, we could say this every week, but facing Mario Williams will give Pittsburgh plenty of challenges. Williams will likely be facing Marvel Smith for most of the game, which is actually a very good thing for the Steelers. If Williams moves around and flops over to the other side, he could give Willie Colon nightmares, especially as Colon sometimes has trouble maintaining his blocks when he gets double-team help (something that would be required if he's asked to block Williams). If Williams is left on the right side, facing Smith, Pittsburgh can at least endure that with minimal problems.
The even bigger concern will be Kendall Simmons against Amobi Okoye. Okoye, a first-round pick last year, has the size and speed to treat Simmons like a blocking dummy if Simmons doesn't get some help. One of the key things to watch is this matchup. If you see Simmons getting knocked into the backfield on running plays, it's going to force the Steelers to rely more and more on the passing game. Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall should be able to get a couple of big plays against the Texans, but to have a consistent running game, they need Simmons to at least work this matchup to a draw.
2. Andre Johnson will give Pittsburgh problems.
The Steelers actually are better equipped to limit Johnson than most teams, because Ike Taylor has the size and speed to slow down the Texans' top receiver. But the arrival of Schaub last year revitalized Johnson's career, because Schaub and backup Sage Rosenfels are much more capable of getting the ball to him downfield. Johnson's per catch average jumped by more than three yards last year. Expect to see Johnson catch a couple of nice passes downfield, the key will be whether the Steelers can limit the damage.
3. Can the Steelers cover kicks?
If you're a Steelers fan, Pittsburgh's coverage units are always a big concern. And in facing Andre Davis (three returns for touchdowns last year), the Steelers will get a very difficult first test.
With one notable exception, the Steelers coverage units looked OK during the preseason. There is plenty of athleticism on the kick coverage team, especially with Key Fox and Lawrence Timmons flying downfield, but Pittsburgh has to show better lane discipline than it has in past years. Last year, Pittsburgh tried to fix its special teams problems by devoting hours of practice to it. This year, they tried a different approach, scaling back to see if they overworked last year. We'll see if it works.