After an uninspiring first half performance from the Pittsburgh defense, DC Keith Butler’s unit rebounded in an impressive fashion as they held Houston to zero second-half points on Sunday in Pittsburgh. It was not pretty early for Pittsburgh as Houston QB Deshaun Watson led his team to a 21-17 halftime lead, highlighted by a 5-play, 75-yard drive that only lasted 0:50 to end the half. However, the Pittsburgh defense held Watson to just 5 completions in the 2nd half for a measly 62 yards. It wasn’t only the pass defense that was strong for the Steelers on Sunday, they were also stout in the run game as well. They held the entire Houston offense to only 29 yards gained on the ground. They managed to only average 1.9 on their 15 total carries, with their longest rush being a 5-yard scramble coming from the legs of Deshaun Watson. In addition, the Steelers sacked the Houston quarterback 5 times on Sunday and CB Mike Hilton secured an interception early in the 4th quarter.
While the defense returned to their normal state in the second half, the Pittsburgh offense consistently moved the ball down the field on the Texans, putting up their highest scoring output so far this season. Most importantly, the Steelers did not turn the ball over on Sunday, something they have not accomplished since the 2018 season. QB Ben Roethlisberger had a strong day as he passed for 237 yards and found the endzone through the air twice. Roethlisberger had 5 of his receivers register more than 30 receiving yards, while WR Juju Smith-Schuster and TE Eric Ebron reeled in the two touchdowns from Big Ben. On the ground, RB James Conner led the way for the Pittsburgh running backs as he ran for 109 yards and the game-winning touchdown. In addition to Conner’s strong performance, rookie RB Anthony McFarland Jr. had a strong debut as he rushed 6 times for 42 yards. The Maryland product provides a different element to the Steelers’ offense as he is able to keep defenses off-balance with his burst and speed.
The Steelers will be happy to advance to 3-0 for the first time since 2010, but their win on Sunday came at the expense of WR Diontae Jonson, who exited the game in the second quarter with a concussion. The injury came on a reverse play in which RB James Conner took the handoff from Roethlisberger, then flipped it to Johnson who was running his opposite. Johnson nearly found the endzone on the play but was stood up at the 2-yard line and was clearly shaken up. He will surely enter the NFL concussion protocol, which will make his Week 4 status unclear.
Coming up next for HC Mike Tomlin’s team is a trip to Tennessee to take on the 3-0 Titans. The Steelers will need to continue to blow up opposing teams’ rushing attacks as they will confront one of the league’s best next week, headed by RB Derrick Henry. This will also be the strongest defense that Pittsburgh will have come across to date, so expect a contested battle between two unbeaten teams.