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Scouting the enemy: Players to watch on Texans to watch vs. Steelers in Week 4

The Steelers need to be prepared.

Syndication: Florida Times-Union
Here come the Texans
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Texans are a very young team. With 2 first round picks, taken back to back, at number 2 and 3, taking leaders on both sides of the ball, the Texans may have very well turned around their franchise overnight. Here’s some players to look for come Sunday afternoon.

Syndication: Florida Times-Union
He’s a rookie????
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

Rookie QB C.J. Stroud

The rookie is not playing like a rookie. Watching Stroud play at Ohio State, seeing him grow from game to game, it’s translated to the NFL. Through three weeks, Stroud has more passing yards than any other in their first 3 games. He has improved every game.

From Week 1 through Week 3, his yards per completion has risen from 5.5 to 9.3 in the Texans upset over the Jaguars. 9.3 yards per clip is elite. He has yet to throw an interception, either. For a veteran, he would be playing lights out. Stroud does not look to run but will take off in a heartbeat to secure a first down in a tight contest but overall, his eyes stay downfield.

Stroud doesn’t play favorites, either. Just as a seasoned veteran would, Stroud slings the rock very evenly to his weapons. More on that later.

The Pittsburgh secondary has been playing more of a bend but don’t break defense so unless some changes occur in the Pittsburgh secondary, Stroud and his 64% completion rate are going to move the chains. Pittsburgh needs to bring pressure and try to force the rookie into mistakes – which he has not done to date.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Solid WR core
Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Texans WR Corps: Nico Collins, Nathaniel Dell, Robert Woods

The Texans receiver room is diverse. Each of these receivers has 15 receptions to start the year. Nico Collins and Tank Dell run the deeper routes combining for over 500 yards and veteran Robert Woods has had the hands that move the chains.

Last week, Davante Adams was a key player to watch and he put on a show. This week provides a more unique challenge as Houston does not have a true number one. They spread the ball around as well as any team in the league so far this season.

There is also not a ton of film on the young Texans offense but they have shown to be unpredictable and keep defenses on their toes. Dell leads the team with two touchdown receptions, Collins has one and Woods is yet to see the end-zone but he has been the receiver that keeps the team on schedule like Allen Robinson did for Pittsburgh last Sunday night.

The Pittsburgh secondary will need to communicate better than they have to start the season, they have shown improvement but it’s a new week and a little bit of a different challenge as there is no singular player that stands out. The targets for each player are almost identical which makes it very difficult at times to figure out what direction the offense may take in critical game situations.

Syndication: Florida Times-Union
Beast Mode
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

DE Will Anderson

As the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, DE Will Anderson is already showing signs that he is going to be special. Though he’s listed as a defensive end, Anderson is likely to be moved around a fair bit, much like Micah Parsons in Dallas.

At 6’4 and 250 lbs. and with eyes for the game, it’s not going to take long before you start hearing Anderson’s name from week to week as you hear about Parsons, T.J. Watt, or Myles Garrett. He’s fighting for the team lead in tackles, has a sack, and last week he blocked a field goal as the Texans defense frustrated Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars high-flying pass attack.

The Texans had a couple of starters return from injury which helped and it showed that Houston is looking to compete, not build, with their rookie signal caller on offense and a generational talent in Will Anderson on defense.

Yet again, there is obviously not a ton of film on the young Texans defense, so the team must be prepared for things that have not been seen yet. Deploying Anderson in new ways is a surefire way to create splash plays as he is more than capable of taking over a game. He just hasn’t figured that part out yet – but it’s coming!

NFL: Preseason-Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints
Texans secondary looks to shut down Kenny
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

S Jimmie Ward

Another former first-round pick on the Texans squad is Jimmie Ward, an enforcer on defense since coming into the league. After missing the first two weeks of the season, Ward’s impact was felt in his first game back. Recording eight tackles in his return, the 32-year-old vet helped the team dramatically on third downs by limiting the Jags to going 5-of-13 third-down conversions.

Though Ward’s natural position is free safety, he moves around. Not known as a ball hawk, Ward makes his impact felt through discipline and physicality. Similar to CB Patrick Peterson for the Steelers, it’s his knowledge of the game the Steelers need to look out for.

Ward has been there and done that, carving out a stellar career making routine plays routinely, not making mistakes, and throwing in a splash play or two in needed moments. He may not have the 4.4 speed he once had but he is the veteran leader of a very tough Texans defense and needs to be accounted for.