HOUSTON—Andre Johnson could only watch with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
With their All-Pro receiver out because of an injured hamstring, the Houston Texans were OK though, thanks to a defense that has finally found a pass rush after years of struggling.
Arian Foster rushed for 155 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, and the defense harassed Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday in a 17-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Johnson left in the second quarter with a right hamstring injury and didn’t return, though he was back on the sideline late to watch Houston (3-1) finish off Roethlisberger and the injury-plagued Steelers (2-2).
“It’s good to see the pressure that we were putting on Roethlisberger, not giving him enough time to throw,” Texans owner Bob McNair said.
Roethlisberger was beaten up behind an offensive line missing two regular starters.
“With Andre going down, we knew we had to pick it up,” linebacker Mario Williams said. “We tried to hold them and get the offense the ball back as many times as we could.”
The Steelers also lost running back Rashard Mendenhall (hamstring), linebacker James Harrison (eye) and defensive end Aaron Smith (foot) during the game.
Roethlisberger hurt his left foot but stayed in, and he was wearing a walking boot when he left the stadium. He said he was injured on the second-to-last series when he was tackled from behind. Roethlisberger had an X-ray after the game but said he didn’t know the results.
He refused to blame the line for the problems Sunday.
“I’ve still got to make plays,” he said. “I’ve got to make it
easier on my guys and I didn’t do that.”
Williams was pleased with his team’s defensive performance.
“This was probably one of the best games we’ve had as far as
pressure goes,” Williams said. “We were coming every play. We just held them and kept going.”
Foster finally looked healthy after weeks of nursing a left hamstring strain. He broke off a 42-yard touchdown run with about 12 minutes left after the Steelers rallied to tie it 10-all. Foster finished with 30 carries.
“It surprised me that he could handle 30 carries,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s a player that plays better the more he plays.”
Matt Schaub threw a touchdown pass to Owen Daniels in the first half. The Texans led 10-0 at the break, and an ill-timed penalty cost them another touchdown.
On the final snap before the half, Danieal Manning blocked Shaun Suisham’s field-goal attempt, and Johnathan Joseph scooped up the loose ball and ran 61 yards to the end zone. But Manning was flagged for an illegal block well behind Joseph, and the score was nullified.
Houston was on the move in the second quarter when Johnson pulled up without being touched.
The five-time Pro Bowl receiver caught a pass, turned upfield and then fell forward near the 40-yard line, immediately clutching the back of his right leg. He limped off and walked to the locker room on his own.
The Texans seemed to lose their edge after that. The drive stalled and Neil Rackers kicked a 22-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Schaub threw a 30-yard pass to Daniels to the Steelers 42 early in the fourth. Foster took it from there, breaking outside and outrunning the Pittsburgh secondary to the end zone.
The defense then finished off the Steelers.
Antonio Smith and Mario Williams sacked Roethlisberger, and
linebacker Connor Barwin swatted away his fourth-down pass with 2:38 left.
The Steelers had one last gasp after Houston had another touchdown wiped away by a penalty. Joseph intercepted Roethlisberger’s pass from the end zone and returned it for a score, but rookie J.J. Watt was flagged for roughing the passer.
The Texans then got an interception by Jason Allen, and that one stood up.
Another Houston penalty in the first half wiped out a sack and forced fumble by Barwin.
The Texans dominated the first half, with Foster setting the tone on the first drive. The 2010 NFL rushing champion had 41 yards on the drive. With the Steelers keying on him, Daniels was open and Schaub found him for an easy touchdown.
The score finished a 19-play drive that consumed 10 minutes, 55 seconds, both franchise records.
Williams sacked Roethlisberger on the fourth play of the second half. But Pittsburgh’s line started holding up better, and Roethlisberger threw a 23-yard pass to Antonio Brown to the Houston 15. Mendenhall scored on a 3-yard run, his last play before leaving with the injury.
Backup Isaac Redman had an 18-yard run across midfield to start the Steelers’ next series. Pittsburgh chewed up the last five minutes of the third quarter with the drive, and Suisham tied it with a 26-yard field goal.
Notes: Texans RB Ben Tate left with a groin injury. ... The Texans have outscored their opponents 76-13 in the first half this season. ... Roethlisberger has been sacked 14 times this season. ... The Steelers failed to generate a turnover and are minus-10 in turnover margin this season.