Merry Christmas, Steelers fans.
The Steelers will play the Houston Texans on the road today and will have a chance at clinching a first round bye in the playoff with either a win or a tie.
The Steelers won’t have wide receiver Antonio Brown (calf) or guard Ramon Foster (concussion) for the Week 16 road game in Houston as both are on the team’s inactive list today.
With the great Matthew Marczi off celebrating Christmas with his family today, newcomer Parker Abate (@parkerabate) will be handling the live blogging duties in his place. Please make him feel at home.
Merry Christmas, Steelers Nation! We all remember last Christmas when the Steelers clinched the AFC North on the ‘Immaculate Extension’. Let’s hope that they take care of business today in less dramatic fashion and clinch a first round bye in the playoffs.
The Texans won the coin toss and chose to defer to the second half. Fitzgerald Toussaint took a knee in the end zone and the Steelers start at the 25 after the touchback.
Four plays and four first downs for the Steelers. A screen pass to Martavis Bryant, two throws to Vance McDonald and an 11 yard run by Le’Veon Bell have the Steelers at the Texans 18 yard line.
Two short yardage running plays and a failed 3rd down conversion lead to a Chris Boswell 34-yard field goal. Steelers take the first lead of the game, 3-0.
Jordan Todman returns the kick to the 27 yard line, but a holding penalty backs the Texans up to their own 15.
The Texans start with an incomplete pass which was followed up by a running play and a nice tackle by Bud Dupree. On 3rd and 9, TJ Yates was taken down by Mike Hilton for a sack. Eli Rogers calls for a fair catch at the 46 on the punt.
Set up in an I-formation, Le’Veon Bell starts the drive with a 5 yard run up the middle. Shortly after, Ben Roethlisberger finds Bryant for a 35 yard gain down the right side. On 3rd and 4 from the 5, Big Ben finds Justin Hunter for a Steelers touchdown. 10-0 with 6:59 to go in the 1st quarter.
Todman slips at the 15 yard line returning the kick after the Steeler touchdown. The first play of the Texans second drive consists of a Lamar Miller run for 12 yards. On 2nd and 5, Cam Heyward gets his 11th sack of the season. On 3rd and 6, T.J. Watt gets called for a neutral zone infraction which leads to the Texans having a 3rd and 1 and converting on a 9 yard run by Alfred Blue. Joe Haden plays DeAndre Hopkins tight on 2rd and 3rd down, and both passes are incomplete. Texans have to punt and Eli Rogers calls for a fair catch at the 8 yard line.
Two carries by Bell lead to the Steelers having a 3rd and 6. Ben hits McDonald for a 13 yard gain and a first down. McDonald is finding ways to get open here in the early going. Roethlisberger throws it into traffic and a scuffle for the ball leads to the officials awarding a catch to JuJu Smith-Schuster. The first quarter comes to an end on that play. We can expect the Texans to challenge the ruling on the field as it looked as if JuJu did not ‘survive the ground’.
The ruling on the field is overturned. Due to the pass being incomplete, the clock should have stopped and now we jump back in time to the 1st quarter. A screen pass to McDonald on 3rd and 12 only goes for 5 yards and the Steelers will punt for the first time today.
Berry punts the ball for 39 yards and Braxton Miller calls for a fair catch at the 34 yard line. Alfred Blue busts out a 48 yard run on first down. Texans with the ball at the Steelers 18 yard line. Julien Davenport is called for a facemask penalty two plays after and the Texans get backed up 30. Lamar Miller gains most of that yardage back with a 13 yard run and Yates gets a first down on the following play with an 11 yard run. Steelers having trouble communicating on defense this series. After holding the Texans three times in a row, Artie Burns finds a way to pick off Yates in the end zone on 4th down for his first INT of the season. After an official review, the call on the field stands and it is Steelers ball at the 20.
The Steelers bring in Chris Hubbard on 2nd down as an extra lineman, but Ben tosses the ball to the other side of the field to Bell. Bell gains four there and seven on the very next play via reception. Stevan Ridley gets his first run as a Steeler on 1st and 10 and it goes for 3 yards. Le’Veon Bell touching the ball again on the following play, this time for a 22 yard run to the Texans 44. Martavis Bryant does a great job on 3rd and 12 extending to get over the mark necessary to get the first. Steelers are knocking on the door at the Texans 20 yard line.
Big Ben goes for the end zone on 1st and 10 and a pass interference is called on Marcus Gilchrist and the Steelers will have the ball on the 1. Roethlisberger hands the ball off to Roosevelt Nix on a fullback dive and Nix finds himself in the end zone. Steelers extend their lead to 17-0. Disrupting the long snapper is called on Houston and the 15 yards will be added to the kickoff.
Boswell’s kickoff from the 50 yard line results in a touchback. TJ Yates and the Texans will go to work with 4:14 left in the half.
That didn’t last long for Houston as Cameron Heyward strips Yates on 3rd and 5 and Dupree falls on it. Yates is now 2/7 for 8 yards with an INT and fumble.
The drive starts with a dump off to, who looked to be Ben’s last resort on the play, Le’Veon Bell and it goes for 9 yards. Clowney is slow to get up, but walks off the field under his own power. After the 2 minute warning, a shot gun handoff to Bell leads to a Steelers first down. After an incomplete pass, a dump off to Bell leads to a 2 yard loss. Big Ben gets pressured on 3rd and 12th and throws it away. Boswell comes out and nails the field goal. He is now 29/30 in his career kicking field goals in December. That is good for 96.6%, best in NFL history for this particular month.
The Texans take over at the 25 after the touchback. Hilton blitzes off the edge on and down and sacks Yates as he holds on to the ball. Taylor Heinicke comes in with 19 seconds after Yates is shaken up on the previous play. Heinicke hands the ball to Blue for a few yards, but not enough for the first down. Tomlin calls a timeout to force Lechler to punt. After the punt, Ben takes a knee and we head to halftime as the Steelers lead 20-0.