Payne: Keys to a Texans victory against Steelers

By SportsRadio 610

(SportsRadio 610) -- Ten-year NFL veteran and original Texans defensive lineman Seth Payne has an idea of what Houston needs to do to win at Pittsburgh against the Steelers on Sunday.

This is Seth's breakdown on both sides of the ball.


I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the Texans have gotten off to a rough start. They have the 29th ranked scoring offense in the league. The offensive line is one of the worst pass-blocking units. Some people aren’t all that crazy about their logo.

And this week they face the best pass-rushing defense in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Things look pretty bleak. But sometimes when I’m feeling down, I like to look for help from a higher power. That higher power is Las Vegas.

Vegas has the Texans as just 4 point underdogs. They obviously are not swayed by their emotions as much as us Texans fans. The Steelers do have weaknesses, after all. Here’s how the Texans can exploit them

Use the 2 RB backfield plentifully.

For the electric passing opportunities? Partly, but also for the pass blocking. The Steelers blitz more than any other team in the league. You need to be able to batten the hatches when the Steelers decide to rain down the hellfire. Duke and David Johnson are capable of doing that, but also can be deadly releasing on routes out of the backfield or lining up wide as receivers.

The Steelers inside linebackers have also struggled in pass coverage. The Johnson brothers might get a whole bunch of those matchups this week. Last week, Watson just missed on a deep shot to David Johnson. Which leads us to….

Take shots downfield. 

The Steelers blitz more than any team in the league. That presents opportunities downfield if the Texans pass protection holds up

Brandin Cooks started to show that deep threat ability last week, with a long reception of 38 yards and a 19 yard per catch average.

They did miss one more opportunity for a big gain out of Cooks in the second half last week. The Texans kept eight men in to pass protect and sent two wide receivers on deep routes. Cooks had his man dead to rights with no safety help over the top, but guard Max Scharping had an awful rep in pass protection and Deshaun ended up on the turf. Make that play work this week.

Don’t be the Gus Bradley Era Jaguars and leave your young right tackle alone on an island versus a man named Watt.

Gus Bradley would leave incompetent OTs to fend for themselves versus J.J. Watt. Ken Whisenhunt would do the same in Tennessee. I honestly used to get offended on behalf of J.J. Watt.  J.J. would soothe my hurt feelings by racking up multiple sacks and sending struggling offensive tackles to their career graves.

Please do not make me get offended on behalf of T.J. Watt. Give Tytus Howard as much help as possible. Chip Watt with your running backs. Have tight ends jab him in the ribs before they leave on their routes.

Sometimes teams think, “Hey, let’s see if our young guy is up to the task.” Let me save Tim Kelly some time---He is not up to the task. Do not turn Watson and Tytus Howard into lab rats for some football experiment. T.J. Watt will pith them and throw them in the medical waste bin.

Continue to feed tight end Jordan Akins.

As mentioned above, Steelers inside linebackers Devin Bush and Vince Williams are not good in coverage. Exploit this with tight end Jordan Aikins whenever possible. Broncos tight end Noah Fant just ran away from Bush on a TD reception last week. Later in the game, Bush vacated his zone and left a huge swath of green grass open for a Broncos receiver, deep in the Steelers territory. Williams then failed to keep up with Melvin Gordon on a wheel route TD that brought the Broncos within 5 with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter.

Deshaun and his receivers have to be dialed in for the DB blitz.

There aren’t always blockers for that blitzer screaming off the edge.  Receivers need to respond by running their hot routes. Deshaun needs to be ready to go hot, or he can recognize blitz pre-snap and adjust the protection.

Steelers do a great job of disguising their intentions. Pre-snap tells will be huge if Texans can find them.

I need them to prepare for the DB Blitz like the Three Amigos prepared the village for the attack of El Guapo.


Force turnovers. Yes, I can say this every week about every game of American Football being played anywhere in the world. The question is how do you force these turnovers when the Texans have yet to force a turnover all season?

Take advantage of the last remnants of Roethlisberger’s rustiness. Roethlisberger has made some big-time throws already this season, but he’s also made some big time mistakes. He looks like a guy with incredible talent who missed a year with a pretty nasty injury. That means his mechanics aren’t quite dialed in yet, and his judgment is off just enough that he has thrown errant balls into tight coverage. I imagine he’ll have this cleaned up within the next couple of weeks. Just don’t be the team that he uses to turn in his first masterpiece. The defensive backs need to be opportunistic and make plays on the ball when Ben throws one or two up for grabs.

The best way to force turnovers is with a hellacious pass rush. It creates interceptions and strip-sack opportunities. To do that, please unleash outside linebacker Jacob Martin. Does his size hurt him versus the run? At times. But he has also made some impressive tackles to make up for it.  At this point, his menacing pass rush and big plays versus the run far outweigh his negatives on the balance sheet. He played 18 snaps in week 1, and 24 snaps versus the Ravens. Let’s see if 30 is the magic number

Continue to limit the deep pass.

The Texans have thus far effectively limited the deep ball. Steelers rookie Chase Claypool has connected on the deep ball with Ben Roethlisberger. JuJu Smith Schuster is nursing a knee injury, but he’s an obvious threat.

The Texans defensive coordinator, Anthony Weaver, has done a masterful job so far of managing a ragtag allotment of cornerbacks, and he needs to keep it up this week. Weaver has rotated them in and out of the game and shifted their responsibilities. He has disguised and mixed coverages. He’s done all this to make it hard for a quarterback to know exactly whom to pick on on any given play.

Weaver is playing bend-but-don’t break defense, and for the first time in football history, the fan base is okay with that. They know what his challenges are, and they know that Bill O’Brien spent the off-season stockpiling offensive players (after first getting rid of his best one).


Team charter bus driver: Godspeed.

Pittsburgh is the most confusing small city to navigate I’ve yet encountered. Everything is jammed into an irregularly shaped valley with two rivers that they claim are three rivers just because the Ohio River couldn’t decide which parent to choose in the custody battle. There’s no rhyme or reason to the street layouts.

They do have a very cool custom concerning left turns, but it’s potentially enraging if you don’t know it ahead of time.

If you are waiting at a traffic light with your left turn signal on, and the person opposite you is driving straight ahead, that person will always allow you to turn left when the light turns green.

Awesome, right?! Unless you’re the person who is going straight and you don’t know about the custom. Maybe you’ve only driven everywhere in the free world except for Pittsburgh. So the light turns green and you just barrel forward as anybody would. Well now, all of a sudden, you’re an ass for that. Just because you were following the law and rules of polite society.


I do honestly think that the Texans have a shot in this game. The Steelers are a very good team, but their offense isn’t quite firing on all cylinders yet. Meanwhile, the Texans have been horrendous, but they did make improvements from week 1 to week 2 that they can build on this weekend.

My prediction: Steelers 27 Texans 21