Steelers-Texans Preview

BY foxsports • September 28, 2011

With his balky hamstring healed, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is anxious to prove last year's breakout season wasn't a fluke.

His first extended action will come against a team that's been punishing opposing runners for more than a decade.

Foster and Texans meet the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Reliant Stadium.

Foster - last season's rushing champion with 1,616 yards and an NFL-best 16 touchdowns on the ground - has played only in the first half of a 23-13 win over Miami in Week 2, finishing with 10 carries for 33 yards.

"It's good to be back out there. I'm eager. I haven't played football that much this year, so I'm excited to get the opportunity to do so," Foster told the Texans' official website after practice Wednesday.

Houston apparently didn't miss Foster too much. With Ben Tate running for 301 yards, the Texans rank fifth in the NFL with 138.0 rushing yards, but will be facing a Steelers run defense that's 12th at 99.7 yards per game this year.

However, since 2001, Pittsburgh's defense has allowed a league-low 85.0 rushing yards per game.

"Obviously we respect (Foster) ... but I think that Tate and others have also shown us that these guys are going to be very capable of running the football," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We better prepare ourselves to defend it."

Foster, who has never played against Pittsburgh, also provides Matt Schaub with another target after leading all running backs with 604 receiving yards on 66 catches last season.

"He's a big piece to our puzzle offensively and can do a lot of things for us," said Schaub, who's completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 823 yards through three games.

Schaub set season highs with 373 passing yards and three touchdowns last Sunday, but Houston's defense allowed 23 fourth-quarter points in a 40-33 loss at New Orleans. After holding a 66-13 scoring advantage in the first half, the Texans have been outscored 47-24 in the final two quarters this season.

"There's definitely no question about the frustration that comes away with losing that ballgame," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "You've just got to finish out that fourth."

Houston (2-1) has blown five fourth-quarter leads since the start of last season, joining Cincinnati and Cleveland for most in the NFL.

Pittsburgh is coming off a lackluster 23-20 win over the Peyton Manning-less Colts last Sunday on Shaun Suisham's 38-yard field goal with four seconds to play. The Steelers (2-1)are still looking for a signature win after being routed by division-rival Baltimore in Week 1 before blanking Seattle at home on Sept. 18.

"It's early. We're 2-1. We'd like to be 3-0, obviously. We're making strides and we're slowly getting better," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who's tied for sixth in league with 314.0 passing yards per game despite an offensive line that continues to be shuffled around due to injuries.

Doug Legursky (shoulder) and Jonathan Scott (ankle) are questionable for Sunday. Marcus Gilbert, who injured a shoulder last week, should be ready to go.

"We'll be fine," lineman Trai Essex told the Steelers' official website. "Everybody doesn't need to overreact. We had two guys go down. We had the same thing happen last year and we had to band together and, look what happened, we made it the Super Bowl."

Despite playing behind a patchwork line, Roethlisberger - three passing TDs short of 150 for his career - is still finding enough time to get the ball to Mike Wallace, who's rounding into an elite receiver.

Wallace hauled in an 81-yard scoring pass in Indianapolis, and finished with five catches for 144 yards. It was his sixth straight 100-yard game, leaving Wallace one shy of the all-time record, last done by Dallas' Michael Irvin in 1995.

Wallace also has 11 touchdown catches of at least 40 yards, the most in the league since 2009.

"Great speed, but he makes all the tough plays, too," Texans' coach Gary Kubiak said of Wallace, who's second in the NFL with 377 receiving yards. "... you better be on your toes all day because he's making huge plays."

Pittsburgh is 2-1 all-time versus the Texans, including a 27-7 win in its only previous visit to Houston in 2005.



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