The Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans squared off in Week 16, and there was more on the line for Pittsburgh than giving their global fan base a wonderful Christmas gift.
After the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the San Francisco 49ers on Christmas Eve, it would take just a Pittsburgh win to clinch a first round bye, and at worst the second seed in the AFC Playoffs.
Pittsburgh lost the opening coin toss, and the Texans elected to refer to the second half, but it didn’t take long for the Steelers to make a statement in the game. Their first four plays resulted of gains of 10-yards, or more, and they moved easily into the Houston red-zone. However, the Houston defense stood tall when they needed to, and forced a Chris Boswell field goal to give Pittsburgh an early 3-0 lead.
Keith Butler’s defense forced a quick three-and-out for the T.J. Yates-led offense, and it provided great field position for the Pittsburgh offense. In their second possession of the game, a huge pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Martavis Bryant set up the offense in the red-zone.
Taking the top off the defense since 1991. pic.twitter.com/iRIczyHEGa— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 25, 2017
Three plays later Roethlisberger hit Justin Hunter for his first touchdown of the season, and the first touchdown of the game. Boswell’s point-after made the score 10-0.
After a series of punts by both teams, Houston put together their best drive of the game, and it resulted in a 4th-and-1 play. With a chance at points, Bill O’Brien passed up the field goal and went for the touchdown. What happened was a Yates interception to Artie Burns in the red-zone, giving the ball back to Pittsburgh without any points on the board.
Just call @_audi8 'the Grinch' because he's taking away all of the Texans' toys. pic.twitter.com/maKkHVcbNI— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 25, 2017
With the football at the 20-yard line after the interception, Pittsburgh drove the football the length of the field and turned the turnover into 7-points after Roosevelt Nix plunged into the endzone to give the Steelers a 17-0 lead.
.@Dat_Dude_Nix is just STACKING touchdowns with his 2nd of the season & 1st career rushing TD.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 25, 2017
PIT 17 | HOU 0 pic.twitter.com/CjPba3Moim
On the ensuing drive, on third down, Yates was pressured and Cam Heyward forced a fumble which was recovered by Bud Dupree for the second turnover of the game.
1️⃣2️⃣.0️⃣@CamHeyward notches his 12th sack of the season, tying Keith Willis (1986: 12.0) for the 2nd-most by a #Steelers d-lineman in a single-season since the stat became official in 1982. pic.twitter.com/UsoiBO1Jjn— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 25, 2017
With tremendous field position, Pittsburgh’s offense had to settle for another Boswell field goal to extend their lead 20-0, and 10-points off turnovers in the half.
Taylor Heinicke took over at quarterback for the Texans to start the second half with Yates being evaluated for a concussion, and the Steelers defense, although struggling to stop the run, forced yet another Houston punt.
After a series of punts by both teams, a nice punt return by Eli Rogers set up the Steelers offense with great field position late in the third quarter. Pittsburgh’s offense was able to turn the field position into a Le’Veon Bell rushing touchdown, extending their lead to 27-0 with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
9️⃣th rushing TD of the season for @L_Bell26.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 25, 2017
PIT 27 | HOU 0 pic.twitter.com/A1npwmLcHb
Houston was not shut out the entire game, and Yates finally realized he has DeAndre Hopkins on his team and started feeding the beast. Hopkins capped off the drive with a tremendous touchdown catch to give the Texans their first points of the game. After an offsides call on the point-after, Houston went for the two-point conversion, and failed. 27-6 was the score nearing the midway point of the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh answered the Houston points with a nice drive of their own. After a huge completion to JuJu Smith-Schuster down the sideline, Roethlisberger put the Steelers in the red-zone, again.
We make good catches too. pic.twitter.com/xxgMXqaqP0— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 26, 2017
A few plays later, Roethlisberger found Smith-Schuster for the touchdown, putting the Steelers up 34-6.
.@TeamJuJu sees your touchdown and raises you one.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 26, 2017
PIT 34 | HOU 6 pic.twitter.com/iwZyoLLF7K
The 34-6 score would stand as Pittsburgh took out the majority of their starters in the waning minutes of the game and iced the win.
The Steelers win moves their record to 12-3, and secures a first round bye in the AFC Playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Steelers still have something to play for in Week 17, but they certainly will need help. If the Patriots lose to the Jets, and the Steelers beat the Browns, they could be the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Stay tuned to BTSC as the Steelers prepare for a home game in Week 17 vs. the Browns, and the postseason.