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Texans vs. Steelers key matchups: J.J. Watt vs. Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert

There's no stopping Texans' defensive end J.J. Watt. The only hope for the Steelers' edge protectors is a quick, simple game plan directed away from him.

Joe Sargent

J.J. Watt is above superlatives. He's the anti-offense. Water and time may have needed eons to carve the Grand Canyon, but Watt probably could have done it in half a season.

Whatever you've heard about him is true. He's that good. So how do the Steelers' tackles Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert compete? With a little help from their friends.

The Steelers will have to employ more 12-personnel packages (two tight ends) for the sake of remaining committed to a balanced passing threat in their pre-snap alignments, but ensuring both sides can be protected, depending on the side where Watt lines up. Plus, the possibility of Jadeveon Clowney playing in this game would put a dangerous edge-rusher on both sides on most snaps.

The key to neturalizing any outstanding defensive lineman is getting him to move horizontally. The Steelers will have to press the line of scrimmage in the ground game wide, forcing Watt to commit to one gap or another, and then rely on inside-out blocking from the tackle and tight end.

Make no mistake, though, Watt is going to make his plays. The Steelers must remain committed to such a plan, along with their standard, sprinkled-in screen passes away from Watt or around him.

With that, expect the Steelers to try to get the ball deep downfield early, just to plant the seed in the Texans' minds they will challenge the field vertically. It helps that Houston has one of the worst first-quarter offenses in the NFL, and that may give the Steelers a feeling of confidence in their own defense, perhaps justifying a riskier throw deep.

Boiled down simply, the Steelers are going to have to make a few big plays and they're going to have to play without fear of the disruptions Watt creates. They've got playmakers on the offensive side of the ball; more than the Texans have on their defense. But they must give their defense a lead to protect, and they have to keep the prime-time crowd involved early and also look to establish their ground game.

Challenge Watt, try to get a look or two deep downfield and expect him to do what he does on a play or two. If the Steelers can stick to that kind of approach, remembering there's a reason why the team with the best defensive player in the game is no better than 3-3, they can jump out to a lead and then take advantage of Houston's weak passing game.