Steelers enter toughest part of schedule

AIR ATTACK – Ben Roethlisberger getting plenty of protection as he throws the ball. His stats are impressive but his production in the Red Zone has been very poor.  (Photo by Julio Torres for New Pittsburgh Courier)

After going down in defeat to the previously lowly Cleveland Browns, 31-10, now the Steelers must face three of the roughest teams in the NFL in the Houston Texans, 3-3, the Indianapolis Colts, 4-2 and the Baltimore Ravens, 4-2.
If the Steelers don’t find a way to improve their offense and defense, they just may find themselves setting at the bottom of the tough AFC North at 3-6.
They face the Texans this coming Monday Oct. 20 on ESPN Monday Night Football.
Even though the Texans have some great offensive weapons in wide receiver Andre Johnson who is considered to be one of the best in the league and running back Arian Foster, who is also one of the best in the league they are questionable at quarterback.
Ryan Fitzpatrick still hasn’t proven he can play with the big boys, having come from the Buffalo Bills. And when was the last time Buffalo had a winning team.
But with Foster they don’t have to depend on the passing game. Foster gives them one of the best backs in the league. He had 109 yards on 20 carries in their most recent loss, 33-28 to the Colts. For the season he’s among the NFL leaders with 573 yards on 106 carries.
But when they have to go to the air the Johnson boys give them two of the best receivers in the NFL. Andre has 34 catches for 449 yards, and DeAndre Johnson has 25 catches for 366 yards. Andre is a beast. In short they can score points. But their strength over the years has been their defense, and even though the Colts scored 33 punts on them, their strength is still their defense.
The Steelers will have to work for everything they get and will have to score 20 or more points to beat this team.
Last weekend the Browns beat the Steelers in every aspect of the game to post the 31-10 victory, despite having terrible stats. The Steelers racked up the stats in passing and rushing but could not take the ball in for touchdowns when in the red zone.
Brian Hoyer had only 217 yards passing going only 8 of 17 but Ben Tate had 78 yards on 25 carries on the ground and Isaiah Crowell had 77 on 11 carries. In comparison to Ben Roethlisberger who was 21 of 42 for 228 yards, Antonio Brown had 7 catches for 116 yards and Le’Veon Bell had 82 yards on 18 carries.
The Steelers problem is play calling when they get in the red zone. They run when they should be passing and pass when they should be running. On second and short you use your big back, not trick plays. Blount is rarely in the game on short yardage and when he is they don’t use him. In their next three games the Steelers are going to have to score touchdowns and stop settling for field goals especially against the Colts and Ravens.
At one time Andrew Luck was considered to be one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Well now he’s one of the best in the league period. He was 25 of 44 for 370 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Colts win over the Texans and he has 1867 yards passing and 17 touchdown passes. He has two great receivers to pass to in Reggie Wayne 34 catches for 419 yards and T. Y. Hilton 40 catches for 604 yards. And they have a solid ground game with Ahmad Bradshaw, and Trent Richardson. Their defense is still suspect, but not many teams can score with the Colts.
The Ravens have been a surprise in how productive the offense has been behind quarterbacks Joe Flacco coming off a 48-17 bombing of the Tampa Bay Bucs.
And even though the Cincinnati Bengals have lost one and tied one in their last two games they are still the team to beat in the AFC North.
The current AFC North standing: Bengals 3-1-1, Ravens 4-2, Browns 3-2 and Steelers 3-3.
This weeks’ schedule: Steelers home against the Texans, Browns at Jacksonville, Bengals at Indianapolis and the Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore.
Projected winners are: Steelers, Browns, Ravens and Bengals.

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