"This is a trap game!" was a common phrase uttered by the media and fans in the days leading up to the Steelers’ Week-16 trip to Houston to take on a 4-10 and injury-riddled Texans team on Christmas Day.
Given Pittsburgh's tendency to lose such games in recent years—including an ugly Week-3 loss to the Bears—it was hard to argue with people who were concerned.
On top of a possible emotional letdown, there was also the factor of Pittsburgh playing on Christmas for a second-straight season—and this time, thousands of miles away from friends and families.
Watching your kids open up their presents on Facetime is a lot different than watching them do so from the comfort and warmth of your own living room.
But the Steelers are professionals, and they certainly weren't the only people who had to be away from home for the holidays, as business often tends to get in the way of such wholesome endeavors.
Christmas or not, the Steelers were on a business trip on Monday, and they certainly had a very important task to accomplish, namely leaving Houston with a first-round bye in their briefcase.
Mission accomplished in a 34-6 victory in which the only thing that seemed trapped was perhaps some mental anguish the players might have had stored up after the New England game.
In their most dominant and methodical performance of the season, the Steelers left very little doubt from the start as to which team was on a Super Bowl mission and which was playing out the string.
Pittsburgh led 10-0 after two possessions, and 20-0 after two quarters.
There will be time during the next week to get into key moments, individual performances, and statistics.
But how about this one: four penalties for a mere 24 yards.
How's that for buttoned up and prepared?
How's that for keeping your mental edge, when perhaps it would have been easy to enter the day with a lack of focus?
Make no mistake about it, the Steelers accomplished a huge task by sewing up no worse than the AFC's No. 2 seed.
Is that the ultimate present they hope to unwrap before the 2017 regular season comes to an end? No, but as I've said a few times already, it ain't exactly chopped liver.
Sunday's game could have gone any number of ways, ways that would have had people questioning many things.
But the fact that the Steelers were, again, so businesslike in their dismantling of the Texans was very encouraging this late in the season.
It seems unlikely at this point that Pittsburgh will enter the postseason as the AFC's top seed.
But after Monday's impressive performance in Houston, it appears the Steelers may be entering the playoffs with a demeanor their fans have been clamoring for since last year: