The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 season ended not only prematurely, but also bitterly, suffering an early postseason exit after falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in the Divisional Round by a score of 45-42. The wounds are still fresh, but it’s time to relive the 2017 season that was, starting from the beginning.
Chapter XIX – Pittsburgh Gives Houston Problems San Antonio
The Steelers were coming off a crushing loss to the New England Patriots when they traveled to Houston to play the Texans on Christmas Day. Many wondered if they would be able to collect themselves, even to handle a team that had become a shadow of its prior self before losing its quarterback.
That did not prove to be much of an issue, as they jumped out to a 20-0 lead by halftime, receiving touchdowns from Justin Hunter—on a five-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger—and Roosevelt Nix—on a fullback dive, for the first carry of his career, from one yard out.
Those touchdowns were bookmarked by a pair of Chris Boswell field goals, the latter of which set the Steelers’ franchise record for the most successfully made field goals in a single season, though both of those represented red-zone failures by the offense.
Much of Pittsburgh’s early scoring was set up by short fields or turnovers. The Hunter touchdown came on a drive that began near midfield after the defense forced Houston to punt from its own 10-yard line. The Nix touchdown started from the Steelers’ 20 when Artie Burns recorded a touchback on an interception in the end zone. And Boswell’s second field goal came on a drive that started from the Texans’ 28 when Cameron Heyward sacked T.J. Yates and caused him to fumble, Bud Dupree recovering.
Pittsburgh extended its lead to 27-0 before the Texans would make a dent, and yet again it was courtesy of good field position. A strong Jordan Berry punt made the Texans start their first drive of the second half at the 10, and after a 52-yard punt was returned by Eli Rogers for 27 yards, the Steelers were on the 42.
A sack on third and seven by Jadeveon Clowney was negated by a roughing the passer call, potentially turning a forced punt into first and 10 from the 12, and Le’Veon Bell ran it in for a score from 10 yards out two plays later.
The Texans would finally respond with two big plays from DeAndre Hopkins, first for 38 yards, then a three-yard touchdown over Joe Haden. They went for two points but did not convert.
Then it was rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster who iced the game. On a five-play drive, he caught passes of 49, 3, and 18 yards, the latter being a touchdown that put the game away. The victory guaranteed the Steelers a bye week, but they were still playing for the top seed.