Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates after sacking Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
PITTSBURGH (AP) The pieces to compete for a Super Bowl are all there. The Pittsburgh Steelers are sure of it, just as they have been for most of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's career.
It's the main reason the 38-year-old came back from right elbow surgery this season rather than retire. And through two weeks, the Steelers (2-0) have the look of a contender behind a relentless defense and an offense guided by a star who hardly looks rusty despite an extended layoff.
Yet rather than exhale about a return to normal following a chaotic 2019, Roethlisberger and his teammates are sweating the details ahead of a visit on Sunday by winless Houston (0-2).
Coach Mike Tomlin brought in officials to practice this week to help a group flagged 10 times in a win over Denver. The defense is looking to close the brief holes the Broncos opened in the running game. Roethlisberger spent his ''off'' day fine-tuning his footwork with quarterbacks coach Matt Canada, well aware his margin for error isn't as big as it used to be.
''I've gotten away with it in the past being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections if you talk to quarterback people,'' said Roethlisberger, who will appear in his franchise-record 221st career game.
''If I'm having these issues and we are still winning football games, that's a plus.''
It's a luxury the Texans haven't been afforded during a brutal early season gauntlet that began with losses to Kansas City and Baltimore. Things don't figure to get any easier on the road at a place where the franchise has won just once.
Still, Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson isn't exactly ready to panic with his team potentially facing its second 0-3 start in three years.
''That's all we can do is just put our head down and grind,'' Watson said. ''Just work and try to do what we do and see what the outcome comes like. Of course, we don't want to be 0-3, but that's not the main thing that's on our minds right now.''
The Texans emerged from 0-3 to win the AFC South in 2018. Asking a group still searching for an identity following an offseason overhaul that included sending All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona might be asking for too much.
The Watts will hold a family reunion at Heinz Field when Houston defensive end J.J. Watt shares the field with little brothers Derek and T.J., both of whom play for the Steelers. It's the first time the brothers - who co-hosted the game show ''Ultimate Tag'' during the offseason as well as starring with their mom Connie and dad John in a series of ''Subway'' commercials - will participate in the same game, well at least one not played in the backyard back home in their native Wisconsin.
''To have all of us on the field at the same time in the same game, it really doesn't get any better than that,'' J.J. Watt said.
It's the second time since 1927 three brothers have appeared in the same NFL game, though it's also the second time in 10 months. Pittsburgh safety Terrell Edmunds and running back Trey Edmunds played youngest brother Tremaine Edmunds last December when the Steelers faced Buffalo.
WHAT'S UP WITH WILL
There are questions about what's going on with Houston's top receiver Will Fuller after he didn't have a reception last week against Baltimore after finishing with eight receptions for 112 yards in the opener. Fuller participated in 63 percent of Houston's offense plays against the Ravens but was not targeted once and looked like he was struggling to run routes at times. Coach Bill O'Brien deflected questions about his health this week and he was not listed on the injury report. Fuller has been slowed by injuries throughout his career, but the Texans were counting on him to have a big season this year after DeAndre Hopkins was traded to Arizona in March.
Pittsburgh's offensive line should get a significant boost with the return of perennial Pro Bowl right guard David DeCastro. The eight-year veteran missed the first two games with a right knee injury, though rookie Kevin Dotson filled in capably last week in his first NFL start. Still, Dotson isn't DeCastro.
''Having him back is huge for us because Dave is a pro,'' Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said. ''He's a vet. This is what he does, and he's been doing it for a very long time.''
Watson is the first player to reach 10,000 yards passing (10,244) and 1,000 yards rushing (1,277) through their first 40 games in NFL history. Watson has thrown for 528 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions this season and is looking to do more to help the offense improve and help the team get in the win column.
''We want to be balanced,'' Watson said. ''We want to run. We want to pass. We want to do all the things that we need to do to get on the same page and make sure we're on the same rhythm. We're building that week to week and building that chemistry.''
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 8
Buffalo Bills CB Josh Norman (hamstring) hasn't been ruled out, but he's unlikely to play in Week 8.
Fantasy Spin: It's a tough break for Norman, who was going off in fantasy before the injury. He can be dropped for fresh legs in IDP leagues.
Cincinnati Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap was told to stay home while the team attempts to trade him.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy doesn't intend to bench quarterback Nick Foles in favor of Mitchell Trubisky after the team's 24-10 Monday night loss to the Rams in Week 7. The Bears are 5-2 but rank 27th in points per game (19.7), 30th in yards per play (4.8), 30th in yards per run (3.8), 29th in yards per pass (5.6), 30th on third-down conversions (35.1 percent) and 29th in red-zone efficiency (47.6 percent). Foles took over for Trubisky in Week 3 and was 28-for-40 for 261 yards and two interceptions against the Rams. Foles has thrown for 1,139 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in five appearances (four starts) this year. The Saints -- Chicago's Week 8 opponent -- allow the sixth-most fantasy points per game to signal-callers, but Foles remains a low-end QB2 in superflex leagues in Chicago's stagnant offense.
Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones (hip) and Russell Gage (knee) were both limited in practice on Tuesday. Jones' injury is new, but the 31-year-old always seems to be fighting through some sort of injury and he should be fine for the Thursday night matchup with the Panthers. The All-Pro wideout missed the Week 5 matchup with Carolina due to an injury, but he should be fine for this one and he remains a locked-in, must-start WR1 whenever he's on the field as the team's No. 1 receiver. Jones has 16 receptions on 19 targets for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks against the Vikings and Lions. The Panthers allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts, but Jones should be in all starting lineups regardless. Gage should play on Thursday, but he's been a non-factor the last five weeks and can be left to the waiver wire in shallow leagues.
The San Francisco 49ers reached an injury settlement with wide receiver Tavon Austin (knee) on Tuesday, and he is no longer on their Injured Reserve list. Austin was put on IR before the 2020 regular season started. He spent the last two years in Dallas, recording 21 catches on 37 targets for 317 yards and three touchdowns in 21 games. The eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Rams, Austin had his best season in 2016, catching 58 passes for 509 yards and three touchdowns. He has just 15 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons and has essentially become a little-used gadget player in recent seasons. Don't expect Austin to resurface anywhere in 2021 as a fantasy relevant option.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said that rookie third-round safety Terrell Burgess (ankle) broke his ankle in the Monday night win over the Bears and will miss the rest of the season. The 21-year-old will finish his rookie season with eight tackles (seven solo) and one pass defensed in seven games of action. Burgess was taken with the 104th overall pick in April and has the versatility to also play nickel cornerback in the NFL. He's a smart player and anticipates routes in coverage. The former Utah Ute should have plenty of time to recover in time for training camp next summer.
Because of COVID-19 protocols, the Detroit Lions Defense will not have newly acquired defensive end Everson Griffen available to play in Week 8 against the Colts. Griffen's debut with Detroit will come on Nov. 8 against the Vikings, the team that he spent the first 10 years of his career with while earning four Pro Bowl nods. The Lions sent a sixth-round draft pick in 2021 to the Cowboys for Griffen's services on Tuesday, and he'll be a veteran present for Detroit's defensive line the rest of the season. While the 32-year-old isn't an IDP starting option at his position on a weekly basis, he should help improve their defensive line. However, the Lions defense overall is near the bottom of the league in fantasy points through seven weeks, so you should continue to avoid them everywhere.
Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley has either topped 50 receiving yards or caught a touchdown pass in all seven games this season.
Fantasy Spin: Beasley's 470 receiving yards rank in the top 20 in the NFL, and he sits inside the top 15 in receptions. He's a PPR flex option.
Atlanta Falcons RB Todd Gurley's 122 rush attempts rank second in the NFL, and he has logged at least 14 carries in all seven games.
Fantasy Spin: The heavy workload is a bit of a surprise given Gurley's history of knee problems, and while he has managed just one 100-yard game, he has scored seven times and topped 50 yards six times. He's a volume-based RB2 heading into a friendly matchup against Carolina in Week 8.
Free-agent WR Dwayne Harris (Texans) was signed to the Chicago Bears' practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Los Angeles Rams DL A'Shawn Robinson (undisclosed) will be activated from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list this week, head coach Sean McVay said Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee (hand) could be ready to play against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8, according to head coach Sean McVay Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Higbee was forced to sit out Week 7 for his first missed game of the season. He has 18 catches on 21 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns through six games and is a low-end TE1 most weeks.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't being shopped for a trade, according to a source with direct knowledge Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzpatrick would definitely have at least some measure of fantasy value on any one of the NFL's current QB-needy teams, but it appears he'll be staying in Miami to mentor rookie Tua Tagovailoa. It will help Tagovailoa, but it's a shame for fantasy managers in two-QB leagues.
Tennessee Titans RB D'Onta Foreman, PK Tucker McCann, QB Trevor Siemian and LB Tuzar Skipper were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Deon Cain, RB Trey Edmunds, LB Jayrone Elliott and RB Wendell Smallwood were named to the team's Week 8 practice squad protection list Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers PK Greg Joseph and DT Jeremiah Ledbetter were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
New York Giants RB Alfred Morris, P Ryan Santoso, G Chad Slade and QB Clayton Thorson were named as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (knee) could be back in the mix as soon as Sunday versus Seattle, with head coach Kyle Shanahan saying that he was hopeful that they'd have Coleman for the game. The 49ers' backfield has been a constant shuffling endeavor with Raheem Mostert (ankle) and Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) both now out of the mix for the foreseeable future. Coleman's return coincides with Jerick McKinnon likely moving up the depth chart, although how any share of carries would be split remains unclear. Coleman started 11 games for San Francisco last season, so despite having compiled just 30 yards across 18 carries this year, he's likely to see an increased role whenever he's officially ready to return. Check back throughout the week for updates on his status as they become available.