After a high-scoring first half, the Steelers’ defense shut out the visiting Texans in the second half Sunday for a 28-21 victory. Pittsburgh is 3-0 for the first time since 2010, while Houston will now have to dig itself out of an 0-3 hole.
Pittsburgh, down 14-3 early, took the lead after Ben Roethlisberger threw first half touchdown passes to Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Texans’ offense, led by Deshuan Watson, gave Houston a 21-17 halftime lead after Watson found Will Fuller for a 14-yard score.
After a rocky first half, the Steelers’ defense clamped down on Watson, sacking him five times while coming up with a big third quarter interception by Mike Hilton. The turnover set up Pittsburgh’s game-winning score, a 12-yard touchdown run by James Conner. The Steelers extended their lead after Smith-Schuster scored on Pittsburgh’s two-point conversion. After a sack by T.J. Watt helped force another Texans punt, a third down completion from Roethlisberger rookie Chase Claypool iced the game for the Steelers.
Roethlisberger, who on Sunday surpassed Mike Webster for the most games played in Steelers history, enjoyed another solid outing, going 23-of-36 for 237 yards while improving his season touchdown/interception ratio to 7/1. Conner rushed for over 100 yards for a second straight game, as the Steelers ran for 169 yards on 38 carries. Bud Dupree paced Pittsburgh with 1.5 sacks.
Watson, who went 14 of 18 in the first half, finished with 264 yards on 19 of 27 passing. Randall Cobb led the Texans with 95 yards and a touchdown on four catches, while Houston’s running game was held to just 29 yards on 15 carries.
Here’s a deeper look into how the Steelers were able to come from behind against the Texans.
Why the Steelers won
Pittsburgh played complementary football during the second half. Following Hilton’s interception, the Steelers executed a 12-play, 79-yard drive that was capped off by Conner’s game-winning touchdown. The Steelers’ defense then forced a quick three-and-out before giving the ball back to its offense, which made sure the Texans would not get another chance with the ball. The Steelers dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for nearly 37 minutes.
The Steelers continue to receive stellar play from former Pro Bowl kicker Chris Boswell, who made both of his field goals on Sunday that included a 26-yarder at the start of the second half. Boswell has now made all five of his field goals through three games.
Why the Texans lost
Houston appeared to be ready for a shootout after Watson’s second touchdown pass gave the Texans a 21-10 halftime lead. But in the second half, Houston, after continuing to get nothing from its ground game, became one dimensional, as Watson became an easy target for Pittsburgh’s pass rush. Defensively, Houston’s run defense, ranked 31st in the NFL coming into Sunday, continued to struggle, allowing the Steelers to run for 169 yards on 38 carries. The Texans also had no answer for Pittsburgh’s tight end duo of Ebron and Vance McDonald, who combined to catch eight passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
The Texans seemed poised to add to their one-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter. After forcing two consecutive punts, Houston entered Pittsburgh territory after Watson hit Cobb for a 34-yard gain on a third-and-10 play. But two plays after Cobb’s catch, Watson, pressured by Watt, forced an errant pass downfield that was picked off by Hilton, as Pittsburgh extended its streak of forcing at least one turnover to nine games. The pick set up the Steelers’ game-winning score.
Play of the game
The game’s biggest play belongs to Hilton, who was beaten by Cobb on the Texans’ first score of the game. Hilton, a former undrafted rookie who was claimed off waivers by the Steelers late in the 2016 season, already has an interception, a fumble recovery and two sacks through three games.
“We needed to give our defense a break. We didn’t do that enough in the first half. They got the ball for us, and it was one of those situations where it was gut check time. Our linemen were gassed, but so were [the Texans]. We didn’t want to slow down, so I told them, ‘This is gut check time. It’s time to dig down and see what we can do,’ and they did it. They kept opening holes, and the backs just kept plowing their way through. I can’t talk enough about how proud I am of that group up front, and on that drive especially, because that was not easy.” — Roethlisberger on the Steelers’ game-winning drive, a drive that took seven minutes off the clock
The Steelers will head to Nashville to take on the 3-0 Titans. Pittsburgh is 1-0 at on the road this season after defeating the Giants in Week 1. The Texans, who dropped their home opener against the Ravens, will host the Vikings, who fell to 0-3 after dropping a 31-30 decision to Tennessee on Sunday. Houston lost their season-opener to Baltimore last Sunday.
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