The Texans found themselves falling from Super Bowl contender to top pick in the draft in just two seasons. It led to a coaching change, as well as the acquisition of possibly the best pass-rushing tandem in the NFL, J.J. Watt and rookie Jadeveon Clowney.
What first-year coach Bill O'Brien has done without Clowney and without consistent play from their quarterback (veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick) is impressive. Sitting at 3-3 only a year after their disaster season suggests this team has a future.
The Steelers experienced a similar, albeit not as brutal, fall from the ranks of Super Bowl contenders. They have the quarterback in place but they lack the defensive force the Texans have. Both teams sit at 3-3, in the hunt behind a surging division leader (Baltimore in the AFC North and Indianapolis in the AFC South). A win tonight for either team will be huge.
The argument can be made both teams are in transition right now. Battling beyond .500 while their key players return from injury and rookies improve with more work is essential if either of these teams want to advance to the post-season.
It's a solid bet both of these teams will play with that in mind. We're not yet at the point of calling each game a must-win, but each team needs to find ways to string wins together to reach the post-season. That has been difficult for the Steelers, who have yet to win two games in a row this season. We're now only one year after they started the season 2-6, then recovered during the second half of the season to post an 8-8 record. Consistency has been a problem from week to week and the team now needs to bench starters in the hope of finding players who can raise the basement of the team's typical performances this season.
Houston is still finding its sense of self under their new coach, and a road win in prime time against an opponent having an equal record might be the confidence-boost this team needs to make a run in the highly competitive AFC in 2014.