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Steelers defeat Texans, earn playoff bye

Posted Dec 25, 2017

The Steelers got a perfect Christmas gift in the form of win, and a bye week in the playoffs.

The Steelers dominated from the get-go, defeating the Houston Texans 34-6 in a Christmas Day matchup. The win secures a first-round playoff bye for the Steelers, and will send them into the postseason no worse than the No. 2 seed in the AFC. It’s the first time the Steelers have earned a playoff bye since the 2010 season, when they advanced to Super Bowl XLV. They previously earned a bye in the 2008 season, when they went on to defeat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

“It’s nice for all of the guys that are banged up, AB especially,” said Ben Roethlisberger of getting the bye. “And all of us. All of us having little nicks, bumps and bruises. To get that time really helps.

"Just glad we could bring another present to Steelers Nation today."

The defense brought pressure all day, holding the Texans to 98 yards of total passing, and sacking T.J. Yates six times and Taylor Heinicke once. Mike Hilton had three sacks, while Cameron Heyward had two.

Roethlisberger finished the game completing 20 of 29 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 115. Le’Veon Bell got a rest late in the game after carrying the ball 14 times for 69 yards and a touchdown, and pulling in five receptions for 28 yards.

The Steelers came out firing on the opening drive, the first four plays resulting in first downs. Ben Roethlisberger opened things up with a 12-yard completion to Martavis Bryant. It was then Vance McDonald who made his presence felt with receptions of 14 and 20 yards. Le’Veon Bell rattled off an 11-yard run, giving the Steelers a first-down at the 29-yard line. The offense was stymied there, though, as Bell managed just two yards on his next two carries, and Roethlisberger couldn’t hit Eli Rogers for the first down. They called upon Chris Boswell, who answered with a 34-yard field goal and early 3-0 lead.

The defense stepped up big on the next series, forcing a three-and-out after Mike Hilton sacked T.J. Yates for a six-yard loss.

With great starting field position at the Texans 49-yard line, the offense went to work fast. Bell rattled off a five-yard run, followed by a two-yarder. Roethlisberger then went deep to Bryant, connecting on the sideline for a 36-yard gain to the 11-yard line. Roethlisberger went to Rogers for six yards, and then found Justin Hunter in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown, extending the Steelers lead to 10-0.

The Texans offense got clicking when Alfred Blue broke free for a 48-yard gain to the 18-yard line. After a facemask penalty on the Texans, Yates hit Braxton Miller for 13 yards, then took it himself for an 11-yard gain. Will Fuller pulled in a five-yard reception to the one-yard line, but that is all they would get. On fourth-and-one Artie Burns picked off Yates in the back of the end zone, shutting the door on the Texans drive and giving the ball back to the offense.

The offense didn’t disappoint when given the gift. Roethlisberger hit Bell for four yards, and then Bell fought for the first down on a seven-yard completion. Bell stayed on the ground for a big 22-yard gain, and Stevan Ridley gave him a breather with a four-yard run. Roethlisberger went right back to Bell for 10 yards, and Bryant fought hard for a 12-yard gain to move the chains. A pass interference call in the end zone gave the Steelers the ball at the one-yard line. And then everything came up roses, as Roosevelt Nix took it in for the one-yard score, putting the Steelers up 17-0.

Cameron Heyward delivered another gift to the offense with his second sack of the game, this one a strip sack that was recovered by Bud Dupree at the Texans 28-yard line. And once again, the Steelers benefitted from an intense defense. Boswell connected on a 36-yard field goal, sending the Steelers into halftime up 20-0. That field goal set a Steelers single-season record for most field goals in a season at 35, passing Norm Johnson who had 34 in 1995.  

The lead grew for the Steelers in the third quarter when Eli Rogers set the offense up after a 27-yard punt return. Bryant took it eight yards on the end around, and Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for nine yards. Roethlisberger was sacked for a 10-yard loss, but Jadeveon Clowney drew a facemask penalty, giving the Steelers a first down. Bell put the icing on the cake on the drive, stretching across the goal line for a 10-yard touchdown run, and a 27-0 lead at the end of the third quarter.

The Texans got on the board in the fourth quarter, moving the ball down the field on a 16-yard run by Lamar Miller and a 38-yard reception by DeAndre Hopkins. Yates went to Hopkins on the score, and he came through with a one-handed grab, while managing to get both feet down. The extra point was blocked, but an offsides call gave them another shot at it. The Texans went for two, but it was no good, leaving them down 27-6.

The lead grew for the Steelers in the third quarter when Eli Rogers set the offense up after a 27-yard punt return. Bryant took it eight yards on the end around, and Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for nine yards. Roethlisberger was sacked for a 10-yard loss, but Jadeveon Clowney drew a facemask penalty, giving the Steelers a first down. Bell put the icing on the cake on the drive, stretching across the goal line for a 10-yard touchdown run, and a 27-0 lead at the end of the third quarter.

The Texans got on the board in the fourth quarter, moving the ball down the field on a 16-yard run by Lamar Miller and a 38-yard reception by DeAndre Hopkins. Yates went to Hopkins on the score, and he came through with a one-handed grab, while managing to get both feet down. The extra point was blocked, but an offsides call gave them another shot at it. The Texans went for two, but it was no good, leaving them down 27-6.

The Steelers quickly answered. Roethlisberger went deep to Smith-Schuster for a 49-yard gain, and right back to Smith-Schuster for a 18-yard touchdown, putting them in control at 34-6.

A detailed look at today's scoring:

First Quarter: Steelers 3, Texans 0
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 34-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 8-59-4:20

First Quarter: Steelers 10, Texans 0
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger five-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hunter.
Scoring Summary: 6-54-2:04

Second Quarter: Steelers 17, Texans 0
Scoring Play: Roosevelt Nix one-yard run.
Scoring Summary: 11-80-6:07

Second Quarter: Steelers 20, Texans 0
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 36-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 6-10-1:52

Third Quarter: Steelers 27, Texans 0
Scoring Play: Le’Veon Bell 10-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 7-42-3:55

Fourth Quarter: Steelers 27, Texans 6
Scoring Play: T.J. Yates three-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins.
Scoring Summary: 7-75-4:18

Fourth Quarter: Steelers 34, Texans 6
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 18-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Scoring Summary: 5-79-3:04