We know this storyline well.
Team A has a zone-running scheme and uses it effectively as many as 10 times per game. They're able to run that scheme with more than one back, although their featured back is particularly adept in it.
Last week, it was Cleveland. It was Baltimore in Week 2 and Cleveland before that in Week 1. The Steelers have seen plenty of zone-running and even more of it in practice. So why should Houston, with arguably the league's best zone-runner in Arian Foster, present such a big challenge?
Because the Steelers don't really stop it. To be fair, it's not so much about the zone aspect of it, it's the fatigue that appears to set in quickly for the Steelers' defense when they're faced with constant running plays. Keeping their defense fresh later in the game will be essential, particularly with the amount of injuries the Steelers have on that side of the ball. Thursday will bring with it the first injury report of the week (the game is Monday, so the team is only obligated to provide injury reports Thursday, Friday and Saturday), and anxious fans will have to wait and see about the status of defensive linemen Brett Keisel and Cameron Heyward, both of whom suffered knee injuries at the end of the Steelers' loss to Cleveland in Week 6.
It's already expected that Cam Thomas will replace the injured Steve McLendon at nose tackle and, assuming Keisel can play, rookie Stephon Tuitt will see around 20 snaps in a backup role. If Keisel is unable to go, Tuitt could make his first start.
Keeping them rested and not giving the Texans a chance to grind out a lead in the second half will be critical. A large part of that will depend on the Steelers' defense playing fundamentally sound football. Tuitt has done a decent job in limited snaps so far, but with a lesser-skilled nose tackle, it's going to be a tough task keeping the experienced and elusive Foster at bay.
Keep an eye on the Steelers' injury report to determine how effective their defense will be. They'll need depth at defensive end and nose tackle, and if Keisel is unable to go, or if Mitchell is out with either Will Allen or Shamarko Thomas taking over at free safety, the matchup may tilt in a different direction.
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