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The matchup vs. the Texans isn’t a trap game, because the Steelers aren’t good enough for that

“What’s going on? This is the Texans. They’re horrible!”

This is a text I can imagine getting from a friend or family member at some point on Sunday afternoon after the Steelers and Texans game kicks off at 1 p.m. EST at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Coming off two straight victories, the Week 4 matchup vs. Houston feels like a game the Steelers should win. The Texans, who finished 2-15 in 2022, aren’t expected to be much better this year.

Having said that, this is the kind of game Mike Tomlin’s teams lose, though, right? It’s a road contest against an opponent who is a huge underdog. The Steelers head coach never has his guys ready for matchups like this.

Steelers fans have spent the week worried about the contest against Houston being your typical trap game.

Trap game? With this Steelers football team? Are you kidding me? They should just try to win the game.

First of all, while the game is on the road against an underdog, it’s not a huge underdog; Pittsburgh heads into Sunday’s action as a 2.5-point favorite. Under what context does that kind of point spread signify a potential trap game?

Second of all, C.J. Stroud, the rookie quarterback from Ohio State, has already played better through three games than Kenny Pickett, the second-year quarterback from Pitt, has through 16 of them. Stroud has completed 78 of 121 passes for 906 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions so far. His passer rating is a robust 98. Stroud’s 121 passes without an interception is now the record for a rookie quarterback at the start of his career. By contrast, Pickett has completed 62 of 104 passes for 689 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions through three weeks. His passer rating is a somewhat okay 80.2.

Third of all, the Texans haven’t looked nearly as horrible as they did last year. They hung in there against the Ravens in Week 1, losing 25-9 at M&T Bank Stadium. They lost 31-20 at home to the Colts in Week 2. That loss may not have been the greatest look, considering the current state of the Colts, but Indianapolis went on the road and upset the Ravens in overtime in Week 3. Speaking of Week 3 and on the road, Houston just went into Jacksonville and blew out a Jaguars team that was expected to run away with the AFC South.

Fourth of all, DeMeco Ryans, the Texans’ young, first-year head coach, appears to be the same breath of fresh air for the struggling Texans’ organization that Mike Tomlin was for the Steelers in 2007 and Bill Cowher was for the black and gold 15 years prior. Ryans is connecting with his young players, and they appear to be responding to his message.

Fifth of all, the Steelers just aren’t good enough to be the victims of any kind of trap game. Pittsburgh has struggled to beat anyone over the past few years–including favorites, underdogs and equals. The Steelers haven’t won a game by at least 21 points since they defeated the Jaguars, 27-3, on November 22, 2020. Pittsburgh’s biggest margin of victory since then was a 28-14 win over the Browns at Acrisure Stadium to close out the 2022 regular season.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully expect the Steelers to win on Sunday, but I certainly don’t see it being a cakewalk for the visitors. I envision a close affair that gets decided when Pittsburgh’s phenomenal pass rush–led by the inhuman T.J. Watt–smacks Stroud enough times that he finally makes a human mistake. The Texans offensive line isn’t the greatest–Kendrick Green is a starter on it–and Stroud has been sacked 11 times through three games.

The game will likely come down to a few plays and will probably be a one-score affair at the end.

This is how I see most Steelers games playing out over the course of the 2023 regular season. A dominant performance or two could force me to change my mind, but again, we haven’t seen that sort of thing around here since citizens were having Zoom get-togethers for Thanksgiving.

The Steelers just need to go out and win on Sunday. Don’t worry about any traps because the Texans aren’t setting any.

Houston will be right there waiting for the Steelers at midfield for the pre-game coin toss.

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