HOUSTON – If it's true that an NFL team starts to reveal itself one month into a particular regular season, what the Steelers are showing is not good.
When they arrived here last Saturday, the Steelers were a team having issues running the football and stopping the run, and they were neither protecting the football nor doing the things necessary to take it away from their opponents. But because the season was but three games old, they still qualified for some slack as a "team in development."
It's fair to still be looking at the Steelers as a team in the developmental stages, but after their 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans what they seem to be developing into is a team that has issues running the football and stopping the run, a team that turns it over way more often than it takes it away. In the NFL, that long has been the recipe for a spot on the couch for the playoffs.
The Steelers right now are precisely the kind of team they used to beat at this stage of an NFL season, the September/early October phase when the most important thing is to find ways to stack up some wins while polishing the various facets of their own performance. Those wins often can be achieved by letting the other team make the mistakes, by letting the other guys lose their poise, by executing the basic fundamentals of the sport more consistently than the other team.
The 2011 season is one-quarter old, and it's time to start looking at teams' tendencies and using those to determine the identity that team might carry through the other three-quarters.
That is what's most dangerous to these Steelers. Those tendencies. More dangerous than a loss to a team like the Houston Texans, and much more dangerous than a 2-2 record.
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