Steelers celebrate Christmas with 34-6 win over Texans

Many of us were exhausted from an early Christmas morning with kids who could not wait for dawn to see what Santa Claus had brought them while others were stuffed like the turkey they had for dinner before the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans kicked off this afternoon. As grandpa snored in his recliner, the two teams took the field with the Steelers looking for a first-round bye in the 2017 NFL playoffs and another win for the season. Holding Houston to no points until the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh utilized a whole-team approach to come away with the win, 34-6.

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First Half

The Steelers offense took the field first after the opening kickoff. Ben Roethlisberger used quick, short passes from the shotgun to Martavis Bryant and Vance McDonald before handing off to Le’Veon Bell and coming up short and bringing out Chris Boswell for a field goal to put the first three points on the scoreboard.

After Mike Hilton sacked quarterback T.J. Yates on third-and-nine in the Texans’ first offensive drive, the Steelers continued to spread the offense. A short pass to Eli Rogers helped set up a five-yard touchdown reception to Justin Hunter. The Steelers were able to go 54 yards on just six plays (2:04 of the clock used) to go up 10-0.

The Texans offense came back out and went to the run with Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue, but Cam Heyward was having none of it and dumped Yates for his 11th sack on the season; making his sack total 36.0 and surpassing Lawrence Timmons and Kevin Green (35.5) for the eighth-most sacks by a Steelers defender since the stat became official in 1982. The Texans couldn’t get much going as the Steelers continued to play tough against the run and pass.

Heyward would grab his second sack (and notch his 12th on the season, tying Keith Willis for the second-most by a Steelers lineman in a single-season) with a little over two minutes left in the first half and forced a fumble; Bud Dupree recovered the ball to flip the field. On the next Houston offensive series, Hilton caused a fumble on a sack and recovered the ball. Yates would end up getting forced to the sidelines and locker room to be evaluated for a concussion.

Other highlights included: Steelers cornerback Artie Burns grabbing his first interception of the 2017 season (fourth of his NFL career); Fullback Roosevelt Nix blasting into the end zone for his second NFL career and 2017 touchdown; Stevan Ridley adding carries to those of Bell.

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Second Half

Houston quarterback Taylor Heinicke made his NFL debut coming in for the injured Yates to open the second half. It didn’t take too many plays before he was pressured by Vince Williams and then hit the turf, sacked for a loss of 16 yards by Hilton who had 3.0 sacks on the day. Yates was cleared to return to the game on the next series as Heinicke exited the blue sideline tent to head to the locker room.

Just before the end of the third quarter, it was Roethlisberger who was forced to the turf by Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was penalized on the play for an inadvertent facemask to ‘Big Ben’ (the two guys joking and talking after the play in good spirits) that helped set up a ten-yard rushing touchdown by Bell.

The Steelers held a fun snowball fight celebration after the touchdown that had everyone wondering what was going on until the NFL analysts covering the game clarified. The Steelers looked comfortable and in good spirits during the majority of the game, easily dominating a Texans offense that struggled and defense that could not out-man the number of weapons Pittsburgh had at their disposal.

The only true highlight for the Texans was a throw from Yates to DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown. Hopkins was a bit guilty of a tug on the jersey of Joe Haden but made an acrobatic catch after tipping the ball with one hand, catching it in the other – all while tapping both toes on the field (and part of Haden’s jersey?) for six points. Houston was unable to convert the two-point conversion after a penalty on Haden for getting a jump during the PAT attempt following Hopkins’ touchdown.

Not to be outdone, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster would make two nice catches in a row that set up an 18-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Smith-Schuster had six receptions in the game for 75 yards (12.5 per play average, longest for 49 yards).

The Texans had nothing left and the Steelers send Landry Jones out to wrap things up for a win. Pittsburgh’s final game of the regular season next weekend is against the 0-15 Cleveland Browns.

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