Steelers use defense to clinch postseason bye
HOUSTON -- Mike Hilton and Cameron Heyward recorded multisack games and the Pittsburgh Steelers remained in the running for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by breezing to a 34-6 victory over the Houston Texans on Monday at NRG Stadium.
Hilton and Heyward combined for five sacks of Houston quarterbacks T.J. Yates and Taylor Heinicke as the Steelers (12-3) limited the Texans (4-11) to 51 net passing yards. Pittsburgh scored on its first two possessions and completed its road schedule with just one loss.
Pittsburgh clinched a bye in the postseason while extending its road winning streak to six.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 20 of 29 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, including scoring strikes of five yards to Justin Hunter and 18 yards to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Roethlisberger completed multiple passes to four receivers as the Steelers' passing offense excelled in its first week without injured Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown.
Houston has lost five consecutive games and eight of nine since its mid-October bye week.
The Steelers recorded first downs on their initial four snaps, quickly covering 57 yards before bogging down in the red zone. Pittsburgh settled for a 34-yard field goal from Chris Boswell, who later added a 36-yarder and set a franchise mark with his 35th field goal on the season.
Pittsburgh extended to a 10-0 lead when Roethlisberger connected with Hunter to cap a six-play, 54-yard march. The Steelers led 20-0 at the intermission and pushed their advantage to 27-0 on a 10-yard touchdown run by running back Le'Veon Bell with 1:48 left in the third.
The Texans averted a shutout loss when DeAndre Hopkins snagged a 3-yard touchdown pass from Yates with 12:30 left to play. Hopkins finished with four catches for 65 yards and a score.
NOTES: Texans QB T.J. Yates cleared concussion protocol after being removed from the game late in the first half. Taylor Heinicke made his NFL debut and played two series before Yates returned early in the third quarter. Heinicke later suffered a concussion after being sacked on his second series. ... With two sacks, Steelers DE Cameron Heyward increased his season total to 12, the most by a Pittsburgh player since Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley recorded 13.5 sacks in 2009. ... Texans P Shane Lechler appeared in his 285th game and passed Sean Landeta for 15th in NFL history. ... Steelers CB Mike Hilton became the third defensive back in franchise history with at least three sacks in a game, joining Troy Polamalu (Sept. 18, 2005) and Carnell Lake (Nov. 30, 1997).