EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Coming into their season opener against the New York Giants, the Steelers top priority was stopping star New York running back Saquon Barkley.
Monday night at MetLife Stadium, they did just that, as the Steelers swarmed the New York offensive line and held Barkley to an absurd six yards rushing in a 26-16 victory.
Barkley carried the ball 15 times to gain those six yards, with Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree providing the most resistance in stopping the run.
With its ground game neutralized, the Giants were forced to lean on second-year quarterback Daniel Jones, who put together some drives, but a goal-line interception by Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward in the third quarter proved to be a crucial turning point in the game.
The Steelers’ offense was not prodigious in Ben Roethlisberger’s return to action from offseason elbow surgery, but got better as the game went on.
He hit JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 10-yard score in the end zone corner in the first quarter, then James Washington charged through two defenders to score late in the second quarter. Roethlisberger connected with Smith-Schuster once again in the fourth quarter for the duo’s second hookup of the game. Roethlisberger finished with 229 yards on 21 of 32 passing to go with his three scores.
The Steelers never trailed after taking the lead going into the half. Jones connected with Darius Slayton for a late fourth-quarter score, his second of the game, but Smith-Schuster recovered the Giants’ onside kick attempt and the Steelers were able to run out the clock after rookie Chase Claypool converted on a fourth down jet sweep.
Starting running back James Conner was injured in the first half, leaving the game with an ankle injury, and he did not return. Backup Benny Snell replaced him and was more effective, rushing for 113 yards on 19 carries, including a 30-yarded that set up Smith-Schuster’s second touchdown.
Conner wasn’t the Steelers’ only significant injury of the day. Right tackle Zach Banner and right guard Stefen Wisniewski left the game with fourth-quarter injuries and did not return. Banner injured his right knee. Wisniewski suffered a pectoral injury. He had been in the lineup replacing injured starting right guard David DeCastro, who was not dressed with a knee injury.
The Steelers will have a short week to deal with their trio of important offensive injuries. They’ll host the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field for their 2020 home opener on Sunday a 1 p.m. There will be no fans in attendance for that game.
From the Locker Room: JuJu Smith-Schuster on Momentum, Offensive Success
PITTSBURGH — Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster speaks with the media, including Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, after he scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the Steelers’ 28-21 won over the Houston Texans at Heinz Field on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020.
Steelers Postgame Show: Steelers Comeback, Run Over Texans
Despite trailing early, the Steelers were able to comeback and move to 3-0 on the season with a win over the Houston Texans.
Host Mike Asti held a postgame show chat session with fans to cover a variety of topics: the win, a rockier day for Ben Roethlisberger at times, the emergence of Eric Ebron, Anthony McFarland and more Steelers weapons, Mike Tomlin now incorporating a running back by committee situation and even the struggles of the defense, especially the secondary.
James Conner’s Late TD Sends Steelers over Texans, to 3-0 Start
PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger threw for a pair of touchdown passes and James Conner secured the victory as the Steelers defeated the Houston Texans, 28-21 to improve to 3-0 on the season on Sunday at Hienz Field.
Conner scored from 10 yards out to give the Steelers the lead for good late in the fourth quarter to cap an impressive day rushing for the team. Conner finished with 109 yards on 18 carries along with the score, while rookie understudy Anthony McFarland had 42 yards on six rushes.
Roethlisberger helped the team find the end zone twice in the second quarter, hitting Eric Ebron in the back of the end zone from 10 yards out and then JuJu Smith-Schuster broke loose from 26 yards as the Steelers came back from an early two-score deficit.
The Texans scored twice in the first quarter, as the Steelers defense struggled to contain the Houston passing game. DeShaun Watson hit Randall Cobb from 28 yards out to give Houston a 7-3 lead after an early Chris Boswell field goal. David Johnson then scored untouched from two yards out to give Houston a 14-3 advantage.
After Roethlisberger led the Steelers back to the lead, Watson drove the Texans down the field in just 50 seconds with a touchdown pass to Will Fuller just before the half put Houston ahead once again.
Another Boswell field goal narrowed the gap to one point in the third quarter, before the Steelers went on an epic drive that ended with Conner’s touchdown.
Taking over at their own 21, the Steelers marched 12 plays for 79 over 7:03, twice converting on third down, before Conner found pay dirt. Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster on a slant to give the Steelers a two-point conversion and a seven-point margin of victory.
The Steelers are 3-0 for the first time since 2010, which is also the last time they went to the Super Bowl. Next Sunday, they will visit the Tennessee Titans.