PITTSBURGH - On a cool, crisp fall night at the confluence, the Pittsburgh Steelers staggered around for the first 25 minutes before hitting the gas pedal and cruising to a 30-23 win over the Houston Texans on Monday night football. It was the 16th home win on MNF, an ongoing NFL record.
Things didn't start off so well for the Black & Gold. The Texans took a 7-0 lead after an opening possession that covered 10 plays and 94 yards, featuring a lot of Arian Foster running wild, covering 59 of those 94 yards on the ground and seeming almost impossible to stop.
It was 13-0 Texans seven minutes into the second quarter and, for what it's worth, it looked very much like the Steelers were simply going to fall by the wayside without putting up much of a fight, posting only 54 yards and four first downs during that span.
And then lightening struck.
The Steelers put together a drive that would cover 86 yards (95 if you count the sack of Ben Roethlisberger on 1st down), with Ben connecting on a key third-and-10 to Le'Veon Bell for 46 yards. Shaun Suisham would complete the drive with a FG to give the club it's first points of the game.
The next 73 seconds of play proved to be nothing short of stunning.
After forcing a Texans 3-and-out, it took just two plays for the Steelers to drive 68 yards and cut the gap further with Ben hitting Bell for 28 and then Martavis Bryant with his 1st NFL reception for a touchdown spanning 35 yards and bringing Heinz Field fans to their feet.
"It was a route we worked on all week in practice." said Bryant. "It happened just like practice. They say you practice like you play."
Two plays later, Arian Foster was stripped of the football and, after a review, the Steelers were right back in business and didn't take long to strike as Antonio Brown took a pitch from Ben and threw his first NFL touchdown to Lance Moore to give the Steelers their first lead.
Then, cue another turnover by the Texans, this time QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was picked off by Brett Keisel who deflected his pass and caught the rebound, returning the ball to the Houston 8. Two plays later, it was Ben to Bell for a 24-13 lead.
"You can't give them 21 points in under 2 minutes or however long it was. " said Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. "You just can't do that. I mean offense, defense, special teams, all of us, you just can't let that happen."
The defense registered two turnovers while the offense converted on two straight red-zone opportunities that led to touchdowns and not field goals. Ben was effective, going 23-33 for 265 and a pair of TD passes and a fumble.
As far as wins go, this won't be confused for a Picasso. But nobody said winning in the NFL was always going to be a work of art.
I'm certain that most of the wretched media, including fans and the like, didn't see this one coming. The 21 points scored in the final two minutes of the first half by the Steelers was a first in the team's history. It couldn't have come at a better time, as the Steelers cling to some hope of staying in both the AFC Wild Card and AFC North division title chase.
Bring on the Indianapolis Colts and another week of buildup for a team still seeking a sense of identity in an up-and-down 2014 season.