After a shaky first half, the Pittsburgh Steelers came back in the second half and controlled the game on both sides of the ball, while shutting out the Houston Texans 11-0, on route to a convincing 28-21 victory.
With their first 3-0 start since the 2010 season, the key to their success has been a collective team effort from both units. In this game, there were four players who rose to the occasion in a big way:
Running back James Conner
In essence, Conner was the definition of resilience in this game. Even when most of his carries did not produce much in the first half, he remained persistent and eventually broke through in the second half. In total, he accounted for 149 combined yards and a touchdown, while breaking the 100-yard rushing mark for the second straight week. So far the shared load with both rookie Anthony McFarland Jr. and Benny Snell Jr. have played a huge role in helping him maintain his health, allowing him to produce the way he has so far this season.
Tight End Eric Ebron
Ebron's performance today was a reminder why the Steelers signed him in the offseason. He was Roethlisberger's most reliable target, especially in the first half when the offense seemingly regressed. His ability to run receiver-like routes made him mismatch for all the Texans defensive backs. Going forward, one should not be surprised if his targets increase, as he has proven to be a valuable asset.
Linebacker TJ Watt
During his brief absence in this contest, it almost seems that the defense was missing that spark up front, despite the strong play of Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree, and rookie Alex Highsmith. As soon as he returned, he made an immediate impact, registering a big sack and several pressures. His stop of receiver Brandon Cooks in the backfield on a sweep attempt was symbolic of the type of disturbance he was against the Texans offense.
Defensive Back Mike Hilton
Hilton lead the team in tackles with eight and accounted for the interception that changed the course of the game. The first three games, Hilton has shown his ability to affect a game in different ways. Overall, he was solid in coverage, making up for the error he made which led to the Texans first touchdown of the game. For the most part, the Steelers secondary unit did not have a great showing, but Hilton stood out and made things happen.