The Pittsburgh Steelers possessed the ball on five drives in the second half. Two were short, three and outs. The others were lengthy and ended in at least something like the result they were looking for, either in points or in the ability to close out the game.
They opened the second half with possession, authoring a 12-play, five-minute drive that nevertheless stalled inside the red zone after two players dropped passes, and a pre-snap penalty was mixed in there as well, so they only settled for a field goal.
The next two drives were uninspiring, to say the least, but the offense was commanding in the fourth quarter, after Mike Hilton gave them a spark with the only turnover of the game. Ben Roethlisberger responded with a 12-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that took over seven minutes. After the defense forced a three-and-out, they ran out the nearly five minutes remaining with three kneeldowns in goal-to-go.
“We need to give our defense a break. We talk about in the first half, we didn’t do that well enough, we didn’t think”, Ben Roethlisberger said after the game. “So they got the ball for us, and it was one of those situations where it was gut-check time. I kept telling the guys in the huddle, because my guys were gassed. My linemen were so tired, but so [was the defense]. And we didn’t want to slow down”.
“I kept telling them, ‘listen, this is gut-check, guys, dig down and see what you’ve got, what can you find’, and they did it”, he went on. “They just kept going, we kept running the ball and they kept opening holes an the backs kept plowing their way through. I can’t talk enough about how proud I am of that group up front, on that drive especially, because that was not easy”.
It wasn’t easy, by any means, and it took a number of successes on possession downs to ultimately win the day, often on the ground, but they made it happen. Sometimes you need three or four downs. They managed it on this day.
“That’s huge”, Roethlisberger continued, specifically about the final drive, which began with the Texans in possession of all three timeouts, plus the two-minute warning. “We have all the faith in the world in our defense that if we put them out there they’ll do what they have to do, but we don’t have to put them out there, and we try not to”.
The defense didn’t do a great job of stopping Deshaun Watson in the first half, allowing three touchdown drives, but they shut them down in the second. They only had one second-half possession that gained more than six yards, and that was the one on which Mike Hilton slammed the door with his first interception of the season.