Tim Benz: Steelers win over Texans is like a Starbucks gift card - and that's still great
That Steelers win over Houston on Christmas Day was like the Starbucks gift card of Secret Santa gift-giving.
Utterly forgettable and devoid of thought. Yet completely practical, and you're really happy to get it.
I always love the Starbucks gift card. I mean, what am I gonna do? Not use $25 of free coffee? Are you kidding? Of course I am!
Even if you aren't a coffee drinker, then re-gift it to someone who is. You'll be a hit.
For as happy as I am to get one though, I fully understand that — at most — 10 seconds of effort was put into my gift. And it sure as heck isn't going to change my life.
But that first time you are out of cash and you need 16 ounces of caffeine at 7:30 in the morning, boy is it going to feel important.
Thanks to Sharon from accounting. You get the Secret Santa gold star.
So how else besides the Starbucks gift card analogy could you describe Pittsburgh's 34-6 victory over the Texans Monday?
It was something we are thrilled to see them get. But it's not anything we will ever think about again.
Except for maybe that DeAndre Hopkins touchdown catch. I'm not sure what was more amazing. How he got both feet down? Or how he managed to catch it while holding that much of Joe Haden's jersey.
Totally illegal. Yet still totally impressive. I'm serious. It was so spectacular, even while it was being reviewed, I didn't want it overturned. It was that good.
Maybe I wanted it flagged in the first place. But not overturned
Regardless, the bottom line is that the Steelers did what they needed to do.
• Rebound from a gut punch loss to New England — Check
• Gain home field advantage for at least one playoff game and get a first round bye — Check
• Go on the road and shake the life out of a dying opponent — Check.
• Get out healthy — Check
Those were the big picture accomplishments that needed to occur with this win.
The minutia — i.e. how that all managed to come to fruition — was also important, though.
The offense showed it wouldn't be crippled in the pass game without Antonio Brown as Ben Roethlisberger was wildly efficient, compiling a passer rating of 115 on 20-29 throwing for two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Martavis Bryant averaged 20 yards per catch. JuJu Smith- Schuster grabbed a touchdown and had six receptions for 75 yards. Justin Hunter scored as well.
“We all just took AB's plate and ate from it,” said Smith-Schuster.
Oh, and even Vance McDonald nabbed four catches in a row without getting hurt.
Le'Veon Bell averaged 4.9 yards per carry. New acquisition Stevan Ridley got nine carries in his Pittsburgh debut as he was dotted into the offensive system to replace an injured James Conner.
Furthermore, the offensive line allowed just one sack to Jadeveon Clowney despite Ramon Foster's absence.
Meanwhile, on defense, that Mike Hilton blitz was rediscovered as he dropped Texans passers three times. He hadn't registered a sack since week four.
“We felt good about the blitzes that we had lined up,” Hilton said. “We felt like with the coverage we had behind, the quarterback would hold the ball. I was able to get back there and make some plays.”
Cam Heyward underscored why he was a Pro Bowl snub, collecting two sacks himself as Pittsburgh tallied seven on the day. Plus the defense forced two turnovers.
Even the normally limp Steeler return game got two decent punt returns from Eli Rogers of 27 and 21 yards.
“Every single time we step in a stadium we have to make sure we execute,” said offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva. “Today the offense, and the defense, and the special teams played great. And we came away with a victory.”
As a bonus Roethlisberger and Bell got to leave the game early. Yet Marcus Gilbert and Joe Haden got to thread their way back into action and knock off the rust from injury and suspension. Both were largely effective. Better yet, when their mistakes occurred, they did so in the vacuum of a 28-point win.
The Steelers had to work on a holiday. They did the job with professional, business-like efficiency.
Well, aside from Vince Williams' taunt of Hopkins, of course.
Now it's onto the 0-15 Browns at Heinz Field Sunday with home field advantage in the playoffs still a possibility.
Espresso, anyone? I'll pick up the tab. I've got a gift card.
Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.