82 Seconds changed the game. Two turnovers created by the Steelers defense, and three TD passes (one of them from A. Brown) was all this team needed to change momentum and beat the Texans.
This is the team that had the sky falling all over them after last week’s loss. If, at the 2 minute warning before halftime someone went for a beverage, he left the scoreboard showing 13-3. Coming back at halftime, the score was 24-13. And while the offense converted those TDs, credit goes to the defense.
Turning points: while the 43 yard gain by Bell on 3rd and 10 at the Steelers 14 yardline (2nd quarter) got the offense going, scoring their first points 5 plays later, the biggest turnaround came from our first fumble recovery, which led the Steelers to score a TD and grab the lead for the first time in the game. Kiesel’s interception was also a huge play, that kept momentum going for the Steelers.
- The Steelers had 12 offensive drives and managed to score on 6 of them, and get on Victory formation in the last one. While our offense was held to only one 3 & out for the whole game, the other 4 drives ended with a fumble by Roethlisberger, a run for no gain by Blount and two incompletions to Wheaton.
- On the same day he had a season-low 57 yards rushing, Le’veon Bell was the most impactful player on the field (accounting for 44% of the Steelers total offense), Steelers first 10 points came after big plays from him, who continued being a factor after that (mostly in the passing game).
- Antonio Brown had his classic performance, and was one half-toe away from scoring another TD. That long completion where he managed to keep both feet inbounds seemed to be a lot more difficult than that pass to the endzone, when he was ruled out of bounds after replay. If this team somehow finishes with 10 or more wins, Brown would be getting NFL MVP votes.
- Wheaton continued to be Ben’s target on 3rd down early in the game, and continued to accumulate incompletions (not all of them have been his fault), but after that, Ben preferred to look elsewhere. Meanwhile, and still too early to judge on him, it seems like M Bryant will get better with 1st team reps.
- On his first game as a Steeler, Martavis Bryant gets targeted 5 times (4 of them on long passes) and grabbed his first reception for a nice TD. He helped stretch the field and contributed by creating space for other route runners. Great concentration on that TD (he slid his 2nd foot properly, and didn’t drop the football even after being pushed to the wall).
- Moore and Heyward-Bey made clutch grabs (a TD and a long 3rd down conversion respectively), but could be seen as one year insurances if both Bryant and Wheaton can play consistently.
- And, suddenly, letting Derek Moye walk away and not dressing J Brown seem to be the right choices from our FO.
- Our offensive line gave up 3 sacks and 3 runs for a loss. And still, get credit for keeping JJ Watt far from being a factor for most of the game: one sack, no fumbles forced, batted passes or interceptions, with 1 fumble recovery. Adams picked up for Gilbert (concussion) and performed a decent game. Pouncey and DeCastro both had awesome blocks on Bell’s runs and catches, but seemed to get confused on some of Houston’s blitzes. This unit is still struggling on 3rd and short sometimes, while not being able to push the DL for 1 yard.
- Not trying to be a pessimist, but analyzing our drives, we scored 17 points off turnovers while starting them inside their 40 yard line (39, 8 and 2 yardline respectively), and scored 13 points when starting our drives from everywhere else.
- Creating 3 turnovers in a game will calm critics a bit, as they led to 17 Steelers points.
- Despite allowing 20 points, the Defense showed it can perform (still, better hold your horses: it was not the Colts or Broncos offense that we stopped).
- A total of 5 Houston drives were stopped due to 3 & outs (2) or turnovers (3).
- Wonder why, at the end of the game, we dropped 8 men into coverage and still let Fitzpatrick complete several passes while getting a TD. If pass pressure was working, and our CBs are not able to hold their receivers for long (and here I go again), why aren’t we blitzing more often?
- Opening the game playing Nickel allowed Houston to take advantage of it, and run the football for more than 80 yards in the 1st qtr. After that, even when playing Nickel, Polamalu played close to the line of scrimmage, giving the defense an exotic 4-3 look, pretty much like what the Steelers played last season. Talking about it: that happened when Foote went down, and is happening while Shazier is out due to injury. Is this trend ending when Shazier comes back?
- The defense allowed Houston to run the ball for 132 yards. With McLendon injured and the way Cam Thomas was dominated, it shouldn’t be long until McCullers gets more playing time. Even though neither him, nor Tuitt registered a tackle, both seem to be poised to get more and more reps, creating opportunities for them to shine.
- Timmons, V Williams and Spence all made plays, but also missed reads and tackles on their running game. Timmons had a sack, two stops on 3rd down, all of that after… well, you know what I mean.
- Worilds, Moats and Harrison had their moments. While some complain they’ve been dropping into coverage too often, that’s been the essence of this defense: mixing blitzes, keep opposing QBs wondering who will drop and who will pressure.
- Gay and McCain were the best coverage corners, while C Allen struggled to cover Andre Johnson. Is someone in the FO second-guessing himself for giving Allen a contract extension?
- Mike Mitchell: 2 consecutive games making plays for this team. And counting. Here’s hoping to see it again in the next 2 weeks. Where were those plays for the first 5 games of the season?
- Nice to see Polamalu running the football once more. Still, his attempts to be his old self continue to fall short.
- Great kicking game: Suisham converted three FGs from 30, 40 and 44 yards. Two punts by Wing were downed inside the 7 yard line. Three kickoffs were kicked for touchbacks, while allowing returns of 4, 10, 17 and 25 yard returns (with outstanding hangtime and kick coverage). Ventrone (a.k.a. Polamalu’s younger brother) has played lights out on Special Teams so far.
- Our return teams missed badly on their trickery (allowing them to convert on a 4th and 1, with the score 24-13), while our longest kickoff return was good for 19 yards.
- On their onside kick, the ball slipped from Heyward-Bey’s hands, passed through Wheaton and Archer, before Palmer was able to fall over it at the Steelers 36 yard line (yes, the ball traveled 30 yards, and could have been Houston’s ball at our 36 yard line with 1:26 to play).
- And, just as everyone predicted, DL #99 was a key factor, creating pressure and returning an interception to the opponents’ 8 yardline (which led to a TD 2 plays later). No, not JJ Watt. We’re referring to Kiesel: kudos for showing spirit all over the field.
- Is the 2014 draft class the one having the quickest impact so far for Coach Tomlin?
- Steelers Offense scored more points in 82 seconds, than their previous last 9 quarters combined (10 points vs Jax, 10 vs CLE, 0 points 1st Qtr vs HOU).
- If Palmer hadn’t fallen over the football on that onside kick, Fitzpatrick could have had his chance to look like Montana, as Glennon and Hoyer did against us.
- Is Pouncey still blocking Mohamed? On a 2nd quarter 28 yard pass reception by Bell, Pouncey started blocking Mohamed at the Steelers 35, and was still pushing him at Houston’s 45 yardline. Bell made nice moves while running behind Pouncey, showing patience to let his center lead the block and was able to get 28 yards on the play.
- Wheaton was targeted twice, both on 3rd downs early in the game. And both were incompletions. After that, he disappeared.
- Cleanest game overall so far? Of our 6 penalties, two were intentional delays of game (Ben & Wing). One was an early Superman jump by Polamalu (encroachment) and other one was a late hit by Harrison to Fitzpatrick (close call). Offensive false start and pass interference by C Allen.
- Was Lawrence Timmons auditioning to play Willie Beamen? Our starting MLB threw up uglier than the Shark’s QB (movie Any Given Sunday), and then returned to the game to have a sack and two 3rd down stops.
- Good decision not going for it on 4th and 1 late on the game. Wonder how many were hoping Tomlin went for it.
- Steelers defensive linemen have one more interception than their safeties combined so far this season.
- Wondering what’s the difference between being flagged or not after hitting a QB late? Ask James Harrison (got flagged) and JJ Watt (not flagged) if they think their reputation as bad/good guy influence referees? On both plays, hits looked equally late.
- Someone has to stop the WR celebrations after each TD before another flag is thrown.
- Kudos to Spence, for his awareness: While most of the defense was celebrating a stop of Arian Foster, he was the one who saw the football and recovered it, changing the momentum of the game to the Steelers side.
- So far, Martavis Bryant has been activated for 1 NFL game, and on his 1st touch of the football he had already as many TD receptions as Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, Derek Moye and Limas Sweed on their careers combined.
Starting the home stretch with a win helped our chances. Still, the Steelers must win at least one of their 2 following games at home (receiving Colts and Ravens on consecutive weeks) to stay close within the Division. Next week Baltimore plays at Cincinnati, and a Steelers win vs Indy will put them in striking distance of being 1st place in the Division.
After those 2 games the Steelers visit the Jets (1-6) and Titans (2-5), before the Bye.
Trivia question: And that was the first TD pass thrown by a Steelers leftie since…?
By the numbers:
3 turnovers created by the Steelers (most since week 12, 2013).
6th time in 7 games where the opponent has scored on their 1st possession of the game.
7 Straight games with more than 100 yards from scrimmage for Le’veon Bell.
17 points scored by the Steelers from Houston’s 3 turnovers.
23 Antonio Brown consecutive games with at least 5 receptions-50 yard games, NFL record & counting.
63 Penalties by the Steelers this season (league leading –tied with NE).
82 Seconds, span in which the Steelers scored 21 points.
1991 Last time the Steelers lost a Monday Night game in Pittsburgh.
2002 Last time a team scored 21 points in a 90 second-span.