Texans self-destruct during 30-23 loss to Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play during a decisive surge late in the first half, helping the Steelers rally for a 30-23 win over the mistake-prone Texans on Monday night.
Pittsburgh (4-3) needed just over a minute to turn a 10-point deficit into an 11-point lead as the Texans self-destructed while losing their third straight.
Roethlisberger finished with 265 yards passing. Le’Veon Bell racked up 145 yards of total offense and rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant caught a momentum-swinging touchdown pass in his first NFL start.
Arian Foster ran for 102 yards for Houston (3-4), but just 29 over the final three quarters. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 21 of 32 for 262 yards with two touchdowns and an interception but the Texans were undone by three turnovers.
J.J. Watt recovered a fumble and picked up his third sack of the season but was neutralized for most of the second half.
By then, the Steelers were on their way to the win.
One frantic stretch turned the tide.
Pittsburgh was listless for the first 25 minutes, letting Foster and Fitzpatrick do whatever they wanted as the Texans raced to a 13-0 lead that seemed larger.
A 44-yard Shaun Suisham field goal with 3:08 left in the half gave the Steelers a minor boost.
A strike from Roethlisberger to Bell provided a much larger one shortly after the 2-minute warning. Roethlisberger hit the versatile back for a 43-yard gain — Pittsburgh’s longest pass play of the season — to move the ball to the Houston 35.
Roethlisberger then hit Bryant, who struggled staying healthy in the preseason and spent the first six weeks on the inactive list, with a beautiful rainbow Bryant caught at the back of the end zone to make it 13-10 with 1:27 left.
The Steelers were just getting started.
Foster fumbled deep in Houston territory two plays after Bryant’s score and the Steelers recovered. Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who has faced heavy criticism for his play-calling, went deep into his options to help the Steelers take the lead.
On first-and-goal, Roethlisberger flipped the ball to Brown, who was coming in motion. The Pro Bowl wide receiver then spun back around to his left and fired a strike to Lance Moore in the end zone.
Houston’s issues escalated on the next snap when Fitzpatrick’s throw over the middle was deflected into the arms of Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel. The 36-year-old took the second pick of his career to the Houston 8.
Roethlisberger found Brown for a 6-yard gain and then hit Bell — who was uncovered after going in motion — for a touchdown.
The turnaround left Heinz Field euphoric and the Texans and Watt stunned.
The Steelers methodically added on in the second half, extending the lead to 14 points on a pair of Suisham field goals before a late scoring pass from Fitzpatrick to Foster provided the final margin.
The end played in stark contrast to the beginning, when the Texans controlled the line of scrimmage.
Fitzpatrick found rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass to end a 10-play, 94-yard drive on the Texans’ opening possession before Watt went to work.
The MVP candidate recovered a Roethlisberger fumble, leading to a 39-yard field goal by Randy Bullock that gave Houston a 10-0 lead. Watt later dropped Roethlisberger for his third sack of the year.
It was the third time this season that Watt had a fumble recovery and a sack in the same game. No other player in the NFL has more than one.
The Texans played without rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who missed his sixth straight game due to a right knee injury. Houston didn’t need Clowney to get consistent pressure on Roethlisberger, disrupting the pocket whenever he dropped back to pass.
The Steelers came in staggering after falling to Cleveland by three touchdowns. Roethlisberger stressed his team was hardly ready to panic even after the franchise’s worst loss to Cleveland in 25 years.
Maybe, but it certainly looked like it after Pittsburgh fell behind by two touchdowns. Whatever button the Steelers hit — be it panic or otherwise — worked to perfection as they began a pivotal three-game homestand with a stunningly decisive victory.
HOUSTON TEXANS (3-3-0) at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (3-3-0) – Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t about to panic, while slow starts have the Houston Texans searching for solutions.
The Steelers will likely need a better performance from their star quarterback as they try to send the Texans to a third straight loss in a Monday night matchup of .500 teams.
Pittsburgh (3-3) has alternated wins and losses through its first six games, and surely will be looking to maintain that trend after falling 31-10 at Cleveland last weekend.
Despite failing to string any wins together and occupying the AFC North cellar, the Steelers aren’t overly concerned and a three-game homestand could be one reason why.
They’ve won six of eight games at Heinz Field, but lost 27-24 to Tampa Bay in the most recent in Week 4.
A calm demeanor has defined Roethlisberger’s career, and that attitude should help as he tries to bounce back from perhaps his worst performance of the season. He had a season-low 64.4 passer rating, completed half of his 42 passes for 228 yards and his interception led to a Cleveland touchdown.
Roethlisberger had a 112.3 rating and threw for six TDs over the previous three games.
Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense will have to deal with J.J. Watt, Houston’s star defensive end who leads the NFL with 20 hits on quarterbacks his season and has four of his team’s 10 sacks.
That unit could become a bit more formidable with the potential return of rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who has been out since Week 1 after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. There’s a 50-50 chance the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft plays Monday, Coach Bill O’Brien said Friday.
Another slow start proved too much to overcome for the Texans (3-3), who totaled two yards of offense and fell behind Indianapolis 24-0 after one quarter last Thursday en route to a 33-28 loss. That was the fifth time this season Houston has been shut out in the first quarter, including four straight games with the offense averaging 40.5 yards.
That won’t be easy to improve against the Steelers, who allow 44.7 yards per game in the first quarter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has been one of the main culprits in those slow starts, ranking last in the AFC with a 58.9 passer rating in the first quarter. That number drops to 21.8 over the past four games after he missed on all four of his pass attempts last week.
Houston’s defense certainly isn’t without blame, ranking 27th in the league in offensive yards allowed (397.2). The Texans have surrendered 694 total passing yards and five touchdowns in back-to-back losses.
Houston fell behind 21-0 in a 38-17 loss in its most recent visit to Pittsburgh on Sept. 7, 2008.
Steelers RB Bell waives right to preliminary hearing -
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (pictured left) waived his right to a preliminary hearing on marijuana possession and driving under the influence charges and hopes to enter a first-offender’s program that could result in the charges being dismissed and his record expunged, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Defense attorney Robert Del Greco Jr. said Bell is also being tested for drugs weekly under NFL rules and will likely face a two-game NFL suspension once the criminal case wraps up, probably early next year.
Bell didn’t comment before or after the hearing, but Del Greco described the player as “a 22-year-old who recognizes his mistake.”
Bell and fellow Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount, were arrested Aug. 20 after a motorcycle officer in Ross Township, outside Pittsburgh, smelled marijuana coming from a vehicle the men were in with a female friend.
Police contend the players acknowledged buying and smoking some of the pot, though Bell told police he wasn’t high when pulled over at 1:30 p.m.
Blount’s preliminary hearing has been moved to Dec. 10 because of a scheduling conflict by his defense attorney, Casey White. White told The Associated Press that he’s also spoken to Allegheny County prosecutors about whether Blount might also enter the first-offender’s program, but said that and other aspects of the case remained up in the air.
Under the program, defendants don’t plead guilty but are placed on probation, usually for a year. They can ask the court to dismiss the charges and clear their arrest record if they complete the probation without incident.
By waiving Wednesday’s hearing, Bell acknowledged police have enough evidence for the charges to go to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, where he must stand trial if the charges aren’t resolved through the first offender’s program or some other kind of plea.
The Steelers chose not to suspend either player when they were arrested the day before an exhibition game in Philadelphia. Both played in that game and in every game since.
Bell is the league’s second-leading rusher with 542 yards in six games, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Blount has 37 carries for 212 yards on the season.
Brian Hoyer threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron and improved to 6-2 as Cleveland’s starter as the surprising Browns (3-2) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers for just the third time in 23 games. Cleveland hadn’t beaten Pittsburgh so badly since a 51-0 shutout in 1989.
Ben Tate had two rushing TDs and rookie Isaiah Crowell added another one as the Browns opened a 21-3 lead in the first half and rolled to the easy win one week after staging the largest comeback in NFL history by a road team.
Ben Roethlisberger suffered just his second loss in 20 games against Cleveland. The Steelers (3-3) never found a rhythm on offense and their defense, missing two starters, gave up too many big plays.
The victory legitimizes the Browns’ turnaround and Hoyer as the team’s unquestioned leader. There were some doubts about Hoyer when the season began, and with rookie Johnny Manziel on the roster, it was assumed Cleveland would eventually undergo yet another change at quarterback.
Hoyer has put that talk to rest and made the dramatic Browns, whose first four games were decided by eight points, one of the league’s unexpected winners.
He finished 8 of 17 and still has just one interception in 149 attempts.
Roethlisberger wasn’t as efficient as he usually is against Cleveland. He went 21 of 42 for 228 yards and one late TD, was sacked twice and threw one pick. It was his first loss to the Browns since Dec. 10, 2009.
Tate’s 1-yard run with 12:47 left put the Browns ahead 31-3.
Really, it was over long before that.
Cleveland led 21-3 at halftime, a 180-degree switch from Week 1 when the Steelers built a 27-3 lead and gave up 24 unanswered points before winning on a last-second field goal.
The Browns rammed the ball down Pittsburgh’s throat to take a commanding lead late in the second quarter.
Tate’s 8-yard TD run capped an 85-yard drive soured by the loss of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who was carted off the field with an apparent serious injury to his lower left leg.
Blocking on a running play, Mack got his legs tangled in a pile of players and never got up. He laid face-down in the grass for several minutes before several Steelers — and all of his teammates — came over to console him. Mack, who signed a five-year, $42 million contract in March, waved to the crowd as he was driven to the locker room.
Mack came in riding a streak of 5,189 consecutive snaps without missing a play, anchoring an offensive line that has been Cleveland’s strength this season.
Right guard John Greco slid over and took Mack’s spot, and Paul McQuistan came off the bench. The Browns didn’t miss a beat without Mack as Tate put them up by 18 with his TD burst.
Hoyer’s TD pass to Cameron gave the Browns a 14-3 lead in the second.
On 3rd-and-1, Hoyer faked a handoff that got Steelers safety Troy Polamalu to take a step toward the line before lofting a perfect pass to Cameron, who got behind Cortez Allen and went in untouched.
The Browns capitalized on a Pittsburgh miscue to take a 7-3 lead in the second quarter.
With the Steelers leading 3-0, Pittsburgh punter Brad Wing botched the hold on a 35-yard field goal attempt, double-clutching as he tried to place the ball. The Browns took over on downs and quickly went to work.
Hoyer, rolling left, threw back across the field to a wide-open Cameron for 42 yards to the Pittsburgh 5. Crowell scored on the next play.
Before the drive, the Browns had managed minus-8 yards on two possessions.
Brice McCain returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown to help the Pittsburgh Steelers overcome a mediocre offensive performance and beat the winless Jacksonville Jaguars 17-9 Sunday.
McCain stepped in front of receiver Allen Hurns early in the fourth quarter, Bortles’ wobbly sideline pass and went untouched the other way.
It was just what the Steelers (3-2) needed to gain a little breathing room in a game much tighter than they probably expected.
The Jaguars (0-5) didn’t want a moral victory, but surely they will try to build on a close loss after dropping their past five games by double digits.
Jacksonville was in this one from start to finish.
Blake Bortles, making his first start at home, completed 22 of 36 passes for 191 yards. He was hampered by several dropped passes — including three by Hurns — and a handful of untimely penalties.
But the worst mistake was his fourth-quarter interception, which was his second of the game, fifth of the season and second returned for a touchdown.
Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger had a costly fumble two plays before McCain’s pick. It came on one of Jacksonville’s four sacks, but worked out in Pittsburgh’s favor.
Roethlisberger completed 26 of 36 passes for 273 yards, with a touchdown. His 1-yard scoring pass to tight end Michael Palmer put the Steelers up 10-3 late in the second quarter.
Pittsburgh’s defense was solid all afternoon, holding Jacksonville to 243 yards. That was somewhat expected considering defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s track record against rookie quarterbacks. The Steelers improved to 18-2 against rookie QBs since LeBeau returned in 2004.
The unit’s performance was quite a turnaround from last week’s debacle, when the Steelers allowed Tampa Bay to drive 46 yards for a game-winning touchdown in the final 40 seconds.
Jacksonville’s defensive effort was more surprising.
The Jaguars had been gouged in every game this season, giving up an average of 451 yards and 38 points in the first four weeks. Coach Gus Bradley made a couple of personnel changes, but insisted the unit’s better days were ahead.
Jacksonville held Le’Veon Bell to 82 yards rushing on 15 carries and kept Antonio Brown and Heath Miller in check, too.
Brown finished with five receptions for 84 yards, and Miller added three catches for 46 yards a week after hauling in a career-high 10 passes.
Although the Jaguars fell to 0-5 for the second straight season, they have low expectations in the second year of a complete rebuild.
They figure Bortles will learn from his mistakes, and he’s playing with one of the youngest teams in the league. Jacksonville started a season-high seven rookies, including six on offense.
The inexperience showed, primarily with Hurns’ three drops, Bortles’ interception and holding/procedure calls on inexperienced offensive linemen.
Mike Glennon hit a diving Vincent Jackson for a 5-yard touchdown with seven seconds remaining to lift the Tampa Bay Buccaneer to a stunning 27-24 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
The Buccaneers (1-3) lost to Atlanta by six touchdowns a week ago but bounced back. Glennon passed for 302 yards in his first start of the season, including a 41-yard catch-and-run by Louis Murphy that set up Jackson’s score.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns but Pittsburgh (2-2) couldn’t protect a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Antonio Brown caught seven passes for 131 yards and two scores, and Heath Miller added a career-high nine grabs with a touchdown. It wasn’t enough on a day the Steelers committed 13 penalties for 125 yards and let Tampa Bay hang around long enough to pull off the upset.
The teams combined for 22 penalties in an ugly game that featured little flow and plenty of missed opportunities, most of them by the Steelers.
Pittsburgh rallied from an early 10-point deficit and appeared to be in complete control at times, but they couldn’t shake the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay twice found itself down a touchdown in the second half. Both times, the Buccaneers, who needed two late scores against the Falcons to avoid the worst loss in franchise history, came through on the road.
A 3-yard touchdown run by Doug Martin tied the game at 17 in the third quarter. After Roethlisberger found Miller for a 5-yard touchdown to put Pittsburgh back in front, Tampa Bay kept coming against a Steelers defense that struggled to get to the quarterback even with the addition of linebacker James Harrison. The former Steeler returned to Pittsburgh after an 18-day retirement to help an injury-depleted defense.
Patrick Murray kicked a 27-yard field goal to get the Buccaneers within 24-20. The Steelers tried to go for the knockout punch but couldn’t deliver. Roethlisberger found Brown behind the coverage on a flea flicker, but the pass glanced off the Pro Bowler’s fingertips.
Tampa Bay responded by driving to the Steelers 14 only to stall. Glennon overthrew Jackson in the back of the end zone on fourth down with 1:53 to go.
Pittsburgh couldn’t muster a first down, giving the Buccaneers one last shot.
Taking over at the Steelers 46, Glennon hit Murphy in stride. He was finally pulled to the ground at the Pittsburgh 5. Jackson couldn’t haul in a pass on second down, but responded on the next play by stretching out in corner to give coach Lovie Smith his first victory with the team.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin believed Smith would embrace the challenge of getting his team ready after the Buccaneers were blown out by Atlanta.
Tomlin was right.
The Buccaneers needed less than five minutes to take a 10-0 lead. Tampa Bay defensive end Michael Johnson drilled Roethlisberger, forcing a fumble that teammate Jacquies Smith recovered. Two plays later Glennon hit wide receiver Mike Evans for a 7-yard touchdown pass, the 6-foot-5 rookie beautifully shielding Pittsburgh’s Cortez Allen from the ball while making the first scoring grab of his career.
A 25-yard punt return by Solomon Patton set up a 50-yard field goal by Murray and the Buccaneers appeared to be rolling.
Pittsburgh recovered to score 17 straight points, doing whatever it wanted when it managed to avoid penalty flags.
It didn’t last. Tampa Bay’s comeback ruined Pittsburgh’s chance to move to 3-1 for the first time since 2010, when the Steelers won the AFC championship.