PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger had touchdown passes to Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown found to Lance Moore for a TD on a gadget play, and the Steelers overcame a 13-0 deficit to beat Houston 30-23 on Monday night.
Pittsburgh spotted Houston a 13-0 lead only to score 24 points in a frantic final 3:08 of the first half.
Roethlisberger hit Bryant — a 6-foot-4 rookie playing in his first NFL game — for a 35-yard score to make it 13-10 with 1:27 left. Then the Texans began to self-destruct.
Arian 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 Moore in the end zone.
Houston’s issues escalated on the next snap when Ryan 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.
Bell finished the half with 110 total yards, 91 receiving and 19 rushing. He is the first player in Pittsburgh history to top 100 yards of total offense in each of the team’s first seven games.
The turnaround left Heinz Field euphoric and the Texans and star defensive end J.J. Watt stunned.
Houston dominated the game’s first 25 minutes. 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 visiting squad didn’t fold down the stretch, either.
Three field goals — one by Houston and two by Pittsburgh — had the Steelers ahead 30-16 with 3:04 to play. The Texans then drove 86 yards on seven plays and scored on a 1-yard pass fdrom Fitzpatrick to Foster to pull within a touchdwon.
Houston then tried for the onside kick, and had a shot at the recovery. In the end, however, the ball found the hands of backup tight end Michael Palmer. Roethlisberger took three knees to run out the clock.
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. But Pittsburgh took an aggressive step to help out an offense that came in sixth in total yards but just 23rd in the league in points, activating 6-foot-4 Bryant for the first time.
Roethlisberger overshot Bryant on his first shot down the field on Pittsburgh’s first possession. The second time he searched for Bryant it ended with perhaps the biggest touchdown of Pittsburgh’s enigmatic season. Bryant caught the rainbow in the back of the end zone and kept both feet in bounds.
Barely 10 minutes later, the Steelers headed to the locker room with an improbable 11-point lead, undoing all of Houston’s work behind Foster, who had 88 yards rushing in the first half.