After a brutal 30-9 home loss against the Jaguars in October, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger questioned his future in football.
When asked by reporters after the game if he was doing anything differently under center, Roethlisberger replied, “I don’t think so, but maybe I am. Maybe I don’t have it anymore. I’m not playing well enough.”
Cut to a seven-game winning streak broken by a showdown against rival Tom Brady in a close battle that could have gone either way, there’s no doubt that Roethlisberger’s still got it.
With Christmas Day’s 34-6 romp over the reeling Texans, without injured star receiver Antonio Brown, the Steelers are sitting pretty with a 12-3 record, securing a playoff spot in the second round.
In lieu of Brown’s absence, Big Ben threw passes to six different players for a total of 226 yards – a testament to the mass of weapons in their offensive arsenal.
The Steelers took a 20-0 halftime lead off of Texan turnovers and continued their assault until three minutes to play on an 18-yard TD grab by former USC standout Juju Smith-Shuster. The rookie raked in a total of six passes for 75 yards.
Le’Veon Bell ran for a 10-yard TD, finishing with 69 yards on 14 carries.
Mike Tomlin’s vocal Terrible Towel waving fans took a toll on Houston’s hometown crowd who had little to cheer until DeAndre Hopkins juggling end zone gem of a catch in the fourth quarter for his NFL-best and franchise-record 13th touchdown reception.
Alfred Blue was the highlight of Houston’s running game with 108 yards on 16 carries. The 26-year old opened the second quarter with a 48-yard sprint to get the Texans to Pittsburgh’s 18-yard line. After reaching the 1-yard line, they had two failed attempts reaching the end zone before T.J. Yates was intercepted on the third try.
The befuddled quarterback was hurried and harassed all day, led by Steeler cornerback Mike Hilton’s three sacks, Cameron Heyward joined in on the defensive fun adding two of his own along with a forced fumble.
With the Steelers final game of the regular season at home against the embarrassingly bad Cleveland Browns, Roethlisberger is sure to ride into the playoffs 13-3. On Monday they beat a broken down Texan team. The question is – will Pittsburgh get past the Patriots if Brown is sitting on the sidelines?