Pittsburgh Steelers lock up bye with Christmas Day win

Dec 25, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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It did not take a Christmas miracle for the Pittsburgh Steelers to breeze through the Houston Texans and lock up a bye week heading into the playoffs. Well, technically it did take the small miracle for the four-win 49ers to knock off the playoff bound Jaguars to make it all happen tonight. Still, I think we can all agree at this point that Jimmy Garoppolo is a saint.

Pittsburgh Steelers lock up bye with Christmas Day win

Either way, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in a way that they do not usually do, took care of business and blew out the depleted Houston Texans 34-6. The team noted for playing down to their opponents played up to the moment, and won a game that did not give Steelers fans a heart attack for once.

The first half saw the Texans throw for -7 yards. Taylor Heinicke and T.J. Yates split time at quarterback in a snoozer of a game that helped the Steelers get an extra week of rest for their injured superstar Antonio Brown.

While the Steelers did lock up the bye week, and at least the second seed in the AFC on Christmas, their mission is not over in the regular season. The Steelers take on the Cleveland Browns in Week 17. The New England Patriots host the New York Jets at the same time. If a true miracle were to happen, it would have to happen a week after Christmas for Steelers fans. A Jets win combined with a Steelers win would guarantee the black and gold staying in the steel city throughout their playoff run. You never know.

News and Notes

Joe Haden and Vance McDonald returned from multiple week injuries and saw significant roles in their first game back. For Haden, it was following around DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins got his, but four receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown is about as well as anyone can hold him down. It also featured the first time the Steelers had their cornerbacks flip sides in the idea of having Haden follow one specific player. There were rumors that the team would bench Artie Burns for this game in favor of Cam Sutton. Instead, the team just removed their liability of Burns lining up on Hopkins by giving the job entirely to Haden.

For McDonald, it was two receptions for 34 yards on the first drive of the game. From there, he finished with 52 yards on four receptions. McDonald also helped in the ground game as Le’Veon Bell finished averaging 4.9 yards per carry, almost a full yard more than his current season average. These could be two underrated additions as the team heads into the playoffs, and both should continue to adjust into game shape with big roles against the Browns.

Mike Hilton recorded three sacks tonight. Hilton has been a stud against the run and blitzing off of the edge all season, and tonight, it came together for a career game. The only other Steelers defensive backs to put up three sacks in one game are Carnell Lake and Troy Polamalu. To say that is good company is truly an understatement.

The Steelers will wrap up their season by hosting the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, December 31 at 1 pm.

– Parker Hurley is Pittsburgh Steelers team manager of Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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