The Pittsburgh Steelers made a big jump in the ESPN NFL Power Rankings after rallying from a 13-0 deficit late in the second quarter to beat the Houston Texans, 30-23, on Monday night at Heinz Field.

The Steelers vaulted from No. 22 to No. 15 after improving to 4-3 by scoring 24 unanswered points during a three-minute span before halftime and then holding off a late Texans rally.

The Steelers trail two teams in the AFC North, though the Bengals have plummeted after nearly reaching the top of the power rankings.

Cincinnati has gone 0-2-1 since starting 4-0 and ascending to second in the rankings and it has dropped to No. 13.

The Baltimore Ravens are the highest-ranked team in the AFC North at No. 9 and they are 5-2 and coming off back-to-back blowout wins.

The Ravens play at Heinz Field on Nov. 2 but the Steelers have more immediate concerns than settling a score with their archrivals, who beat them 26-6 in the second week of the season in Baltimore.

Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts visit Heinz Field on Sunday, and they have won five games in a row and risen to No. 4 in the power rankings.

The Steelers will be coming off a short week when they play the Colts. Coach Mike Tomlin said his team has to start fast if it wants to have any chance of halting Indianapolis' winning streak.

"We can't afford to start in the manner in which we started (against the Texans) and think that we will have a chance to be within striking distance based on what has happened with these guys in the past," Tomlin said.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers reached into their bag of trick to score the touchdown that put them ahead for good in a 30-23 win over the Houston Texans.

But coach Mike Tomlin was in no mood to talk about wide receiver Antonio Brown’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore the day after it happened -- or at least discuss how the play came about with the Steelers trailing the Texans late in the first half.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning that Tomlin called the play in which Brown took a pitch in the backfield, pivoted back to his left and hit Moore in the end zone.

Tomlin refused to confirm that he had indeed made that play call, though he did not deny it either.

“I take responsibility for all calls,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “I’m not going to get into the intimate details about how we administer our business on the sidelines during the course of football games. I don’t think that’s prudent. I don’t think that helps us.”

When asked what the Steelers were thinking as a team when they opted for Brown to throw a pass near the goal-line, Tomlin said, “The idea is to score and Antonio has proven to be a guy who is capable delivering plays for us, whether it’s running the ball or throwing the ball. You just want to put the ball in playmakers’ hands, and he is that.”

Brown caught nine passes for 90 yards in addition to his scoring toss, and the two-time Pro Bowler probably should have finished with over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Brown made a spectacular 16-yard catch in the corner of the end zone in the fourth quarter and appeared to get both feet in bounds, if only by an inch, for a touchdown that would have likely put the Texans away.

But the ruling of a touchdown on the field was reversed after a video review and the Steelers had to settle for a Shaun Suisham field goal that gave them a 27-16 lead. Brown took to social media after the game to voice his displeasure with having a touchdown taken away from the Steelers.

The fifth-year veteran posted a picture on his Twitter account that showed both of his feet in bounds and wrote “[bleeping] refs.”

Tomlin said he did not know anything about what Brown wrote on his Twitter account.

“I don’t get into the social media stuff,” Tomlin said. “I thought it was an extremely close play and usually when plays are that close they stay with the ball on the field. I was of the impression that it was going to remain [a touchdown].”

When asked if he has a problem with Brown protesting the call the way he did, Tomlin said, “We’re professionals. I expect them to behave that way both on and off the grass.”
PITTSBURGH -- Linebacker Ryan Shazier is likely to return Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers after missing the last four games because of a sprained knee.

Shazier ran on the Heinz Field turf Monday night prior to the Steelers’ 30-23 win over the Houston Texans. The Steelers also took a look at safety Shamarko Thomas, who has been out with a hamstring injury, prior to the game before deactivating both players.

“At the 11th hour we decided to use some other people,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “We expect both guys to be extremely close (to returning).”

Tomlin seemed less sure about starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert.

The fourth-year veteran left the win over the Texans in the second quarter with a concussion, and he has a short week to pass the battery of tests that will be required for Gilbert to play Sunday against the visiting Indianapolis Colts.

Mike Adams will start at right tackle if Gilbert is not cleared to play against the Colts, who will bring a five-game winning streak to Heinz Field and are tied for third in the NFL with 21 sacks.

Adams played extensively Monday night for the first time this season, and Tomlin was pleased with how the 2012 second-round draft pick held up against the Texans’ front seven and All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt in particular.

“I thought he did an admirable job. Obviously, it’s not easy going in in the manner in which he did, some of the things we had to do from a game plan standpoint, the movement of J.J. Watt and how they employ their defense,” Tomlin said. “But aside from the technical things and the assignment things, I just thought he played with great energy and finished. He had a good look in his eye. Great night for him and we needed him to step up.”

Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
Here are the Pittsburgh Steelers' marks after a 30-23 win against the Houston Texans.

QUARTERBACK: Ben Roethlisberger overcame a slow start to complete 23 of 33 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. A third scoring pass was taken away by a questionable reversal of a touchdown on the field. Roethlisberger is 6-0 on "Monday Night Football" games at Heinz Field. Grade: B+

RUNNING BACKS: The Steelers didn't do much on the ground, averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. Le'Veon Bell managed just 57 rushing yards but a 43-yard catch and run in the second quarter jump-started the slumbering Steelers. Bell's superb all-around play loomed large in the come-from-behind win. Grade: B-

RECEIVERS: A lot to like here. Antonio Brown continues to dominate. Rookie Martavis Bryant showed he could be the deep threat the Steelers need to complement Brown. Darrius Heyward-Bey made a critical third-down catch in traffic. No catches, however, for the disappearing Markus Wheaton and just one for tight end Heath Miller. Grade: B

OFFENSIVE LINE: The Steelers had to adjust after losing starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert in the second quarter to a concussion. Mike Adams, Gilbert's replacement, played well enough against All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt. And the line held up when it had to despite not opening many running lanes and not consistently giving Roethlisberger enough time to throw. Grade: C

DEFENSIVE LINE: Texans running back Arian Foster gashed the Steelers for 73 rushing yards in the first quarter but didn't do much on the ground after that. Defensive end Brett Keisel made two huge plays during the frenzied sequence in which the Steelers turned a 13-0 deficit into a 24-13 lead. Grade: B-

LINEBACKERS: Jason Worilds played his best game of the season and his fumble recovery late in the second quarter led to the touchdown that gave the Steelers a lead they would not relinquish. Lawrence Timmons was a beast, registering 12 tackles and a sack despite vomiting during the game. The Steelers still aren't getting enough pressure on the quarterback from their outside linebackers but they are getting better. Grade: B+

DEFENSIVE BACKS: The Steelers were shaky in coverage and when Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had time to throw he usually hit an open man. Strong safety Troy Polamalu got caught out of position on an early 33-yard run by Foster but he later recovered a fumble after free safety Mike Mitchell ripped the ball out of Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins' arms. That turned out to be a huge play as the Steelers needed a turnover in the worst way at that point of the fourth quarter. Grade: C-

SPECIAL TEAMS: The kick coverage teams were superb, Shaun Suisham was perfect on three field goal attempts and punter Brad Wing continues to get better. The Steelers need more out of rookie Dri Archer on kickoff returns. Allowing a successful fake punt to the Texans when the Steelers should have been on high-alert for one knocks this grade down. Grade: B+

COACHING: Mike Tomlin should have played to win and gone for it on fourth and inches in the third quarter when the Steelers had the Texans on their heels. It's amazing how much smarter defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is when his unit produces timely turnovers. Ditto for offensive coordinator Todd Haley when his players execute. Grade: B.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers made a statement Monday night, pulling their season from the brink shortly after boos had rained down on them in their own stadium.

Defensive end Cameron Heyward made an even bigger statement after the Steelers overcame an early 13-0 deficit and held off the Houston Texans 30-23 at Heinz Field.

Heyward, talking about the play of fellow defensive end Brett Keisel, said, "He turned back time. He was the best [No.] 99 out there."

Such a statement would seem ridiculous on the surface.

Keisel, who turned 36 last month, did not even re-sign with the Steelers until late August because of lukewarm interest from the organization. The other No. 99 in the nationally televised game was Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

Watt is only the best defensive player on the planet and owns a list of NFL accomplishments that is longer than Keisel's beard.

Watt, as the Steelers could attest after improving to 4-3, can be contained only to a certain degree. The Steelers largely did a good job against the 6-foot-5, 289-pounder, and he still finished with three tackles, a sack, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.

[+] EnlargePittsburgh's Brett Keisel
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesBrett Keisel's interception led to the third Steelers touchdown during the final two minutes of the first half.
His stat line easily trumped the one turned in by Keisel.

His impact on the game, however, did not.

Keisel's fingerprints were all over one of the more bizarre stretches in the history of Heinz Field, one in which the Steelers needed just five plays and less than two minutes of possession to put together three touchdown drives.

That sequence changed everything -- maybe even the Steelers' season.

It seemed so out of place coming from a team that managed just two offensive touchdowns over its previous two games, against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, that you half expected to see cows flying over Heinz Field at halftime.

Less improbable, though maybe only slightly so given how much the NFL is a young man's game, was Keisel making more of an impact on Monday night than Watt.

Keisel hurried Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick into a third-down incompletion that forced a punt with the Steelers trailing 13-3 and just less than two minutes left in the second quarter. Two plays later, Ben Roethlisberger threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant.

After a takeaway by the Steelers defense led to another quick touchdown, Keisel turned in one of the plays of the game. With just more than a minute left in the first half, Keisel redirected a Fitzpatrick pass when the Texans weren't content to run out the clock and go into the locker room trailing by four points. After Fitzpatrick's pass clanked off the face mask of linebacker Lawrence Timmons, it landed in one of Keisel's ample mitts.

He started rumbling toward the end zone and made it to the 8-yard line. Two plays later, Roethlisberger found Le'Veon Bell for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds to spare in the second quarter.

The Texans never recovered from that barrage of points.

After the Steelers survived a late rally and an onside kick attempt that almost went in the Texans' favor, Keisel was asked if the three-minute stretch at the end of the first half, which started with a field goal at the 3:08 mark and resulted in 24 unanswered points, saved the season. "I don’t know," he said, "It's still early [in the season] -- well, about halfway."

It is late enough for Keisel to know the Steelers have to start stringing together victories.

That is why he didn't plan on allowing himself or his teammates much time to celebrate a win the Steelers had to have on Monday night.

"We can't just win and lose one, win and lose one," Keisel said. "We've got to be able to have the same urgency after a win as we have after a loss."
PITTSBURGH -- Observed and heard in the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room after a 30-23 win over the Houston Texans Monday night at Heinz Field.
  • Timmons
    Linebacker Lawrence Timmons starred, registering a game-high 12 tackles as well as a sack. The eighth-year veteran also turned into an Internet sensation as he was leading one of the Steelers' better defensive efforts of the season. Timmons vomited several times during the game -- video of it quickly made its way to the internet -- though he said he wasn't sick afterward. Timmons said his stomach problems first started after Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick inadvertently kicked him in the stomach. He later vomited after over-hydrating to replace the fluids he had lost after Fitzpatrick kicked him. "Just a little bloated," Timmons said, "but I'm good now."
  • The Steelers scored 24 unanswered points with three minutes left in the second quarter to turn a 13-point deficit into an 11-point halftime lead. Coach Mike Tomlin said the play that led to that barrage of points happened when the Steelers, down 13-0, were facing third-and-10 from their own 14-yard line. Le'Veon Bell caught a short pass over the middle and turned it into a 43-yard catch and run. The Steelers' longest play of the season allowed them to flip the field and get on the scoreboard after a 44-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. "They were in man-to-man. He won versus a linebacker," Tomlin said of Bell's 43-yard catch. "I think that provided the type of emotion that the group needed."
  • A short week won't help right tackle Marcus Gilbert as he tries to come back from a concussion. Gilbert left the second quarter and did not return. The fourth-year veteran will have to pass a battery of tests before he is cleared to play Sunday against the visiting Indianapolis Colts. Gilbert sustained the only injury of note against the Texans, Tomlin said. Mike Adams replaced Gilbert and played his first extended snaps of the season. The Steelers almost had to replace their starting left tackle, too, during the game. Kelvin Beachum went down with a shoulder injury late in the third quarter but he didn't have to miss any snaps because of the change in quarters. "It was touchy there for awhile," Tomlin said. "We were about to see (center Maurkice Pouncey) at left tackle."

Top stats to know: Steelers 30, Texans 23

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
The Houston Texans jumped out to an early 13-0 lead on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. The Steelers then rode a late first-half surge to a 24-13 lead at halftime. After the Texans held that early lead, they were outscored 30-10 for the rest of the game.

The Steelers are now 8-2 on "Monday Night Football" under Mike Tomlin, and the Texans have lost three straight after a 3-1 start to the season.

The difference in the game was the quick 24 points the Steelers posted late in the second quarter, leading to their 16th straight "Monday Night Football" victory, the longest streak in the history of the franchise.

Steelers strike quickly
Pittsburgh scored 24 points in a span of 2:54 to completely change the momentum of the game. They had scored 27 points over their previous two games combined.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time an NFL team scored 24 or more points in less than three minutes was in Week 4 of 2002, when the Seattle Seahawks posted 28 points in 1:47 against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Steelers are the first team to score 21 points in the final two minutes of a half since the Texans in 2012 Week 1 (21 in first half versus Miami Dolphins). Furthermore, they are the only team in the past decade to score three touchdowns in the final 90 seconds of a half.

Killer B's attack for Steelers
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was a jack-of-all-trades, catching nine passes for 90 yards and adding his first career touchdown pass for good measure during that 24-point surge at the end of the first half.

According to Elias, Brown is the third player in NFL history with at least nine receptions and a touchdown pass in a game, joining James Wilder (1984) and Jerry Rice (1995). He also extended his NFL-record streak of at least five receptions and 50 yards to 23 straight games.

With two touchdown passes, Ben Roethlisberger has at least 10 in each of his first 11 seasons. That ties Jim Kelly for the fourth most such seasons to start a career in NFL history.

Roethlisberger completed 23 passes, and 17 of them were either to Le'Veon Bell or Brown. He was 8-for-8 for 88 yards and a touchdown targeting Bell, who eclipsed 100 scrimmage yards for the seventh consecutive game this season. Bell joins DeMarco Murray as the only players with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of their team's games this season.

Other notable tidbits
Not to be forgotten was another outstanding effort from J.J. Watt. Watt had a sack and a fumble recovery on Monday, marking his third such game this season. No other player had more than one such game. Additionally, his fumble recovery was his NFL-leading third of the season.

With 77 receiving yards, Andre Johnson moved passed Hall of Famer Steve Largent for 14th on the career receiving yards list.

Ben Roethlisberger talks after the Steelers' 30-23 win over the Texans.

Rapid Reaction: Pittsburgh Steelers

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
A few thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 30-23 win over the Houston Texans on Monday at Heinz Field.

What it means: The Steelers saved their season with a second-quarter blitz, in which they scored 24 unanswered points, including 21 in the span of 1 minute, 22 seconds. The Steelers gave up nearly 400 yards of total offense and had to survive a late rally by the Texans and a harrowing onside kick attempt to improve to 4-3. They had been on the precipice earlier in the night when boos rained down after they fell behind 13-0. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 23 of 33 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns, and running back Le'Veon Bell piled up 145 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. The defense forced three turnovers and the Steelers won the special-teams battle.

Stock watch: A maligned defense rose to the occasion several times in the pivotal first half. It held the Texans to a pair of early field goals, including once after Roethlisberger lost a fumble at the Steelers' 46-yard line. The defense then led the charge late in the second quarter. Outside linebacker Jason Worilds forced a fumble and recovered it at the Texans' 3-yard line to set up the Steelers' go-ahead touchdown. After the ensuing kickoff, defensive end Brett Keisel intercepted a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass and returned it to the 8-yard line, setting up another touchdown at the end of the half.

Prime-time player: Martavis Bryant, dressing in his first NFL game, turned in the biggest play and showed that the stage isn't too big for the rookie wide receiver. Bryant caught a 35-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter, turning the game in ways no one could have imagined at the time. Bryant played early and often, shaking up things a bit at wide receiver. The fourth-round draft pick got a 1½ steps on Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye on a go route early in the game, but Roethlisberger overshot him. The two connected late in the second quarter after Bryant again got behind the Texans' secondary. Roethlisberger put enough air under the ball for Bryant to catch it and get two feet in bounds before crashing into the short wall behind the end zone.

Game ball: Keisel gets it for the plays he made when the Steelers seized control of the game. Keisel's quarterback pressure forced a third-down incompletion from Fitzpatrick late in the second quarter that led to a punt. Two plays later, Roethlisberger and Bryant hooked up for the Steelers' first touchdown of the game. With a minute left in the half, Keisel intercepted a pass that he initially tipped and returned it to the Texans' 8-yard line. That led to the touchdown that gave the Steelers a 24-13 lead.

Injury report: Right tackle Marcus Gilbert left the game in the second quarter with a possible concussion and did not return. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum left the game late in the third quarter with a shoulder injury but quickly returned. Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier ran on the field before the game with trainer John Norwig, but the Steelers held their first-round pick out for a fourth consecutive game because of a sprained right knee.

What's next: The Steelers host the red-hot Indianapolis Colts on Sunday for a 4:25 p.m. ET game. The Colts have won five consecutive games after opening the season 0-2. Quarterback Andrew Luck has thrown for more than 300 yards in five consecutive games and has established himself as a legitimate MVP candidate.

Texans Fake A Punt

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20


On fourth-and-one, the Texans faked the punt, as RB Alfred Blue ran up the middle for a gain of 7 yards.

On first-and-goal, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger pitches the ball to Antonio Brown, who throws the ball to Lance Moore for the touchdown.

Texans DE J.J. Watt sacked Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter.