Welcome back Arian Foster.
Last seasons NFL leading rusher ran wild Sunday, going off for 155 yards, including the go-ahead 42-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter, leading the Texans to a 17-10 victory over the Steelers at Reliant Stadium.
Foster was back in the lineup after missing two of the first three games this season because of a hamstring injury. He had just 33 yards on 10 carries in his lone previous action — a Week 2 win against Miami — and on Sunday demonstrated the form that made him last year’s NFL rushing champion.
The Texans (3-1) bounced back from last week’s loss at New Orleans and did so with a balanced offense that sputtered initially when star receiver Andre Johnson went down late in the second quarter with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Johnson caught four passes for 36 yards before leaving the field on a play in which he was not hit. He was in street clothes on the sideline in the second half.
“There is going down, and then there is going down. The way he went down was deflating because it was like he just got shot so that scares the heck out of you,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “We were playing well as a football team and we had two and a half quarters of football left to play. It’s very difficult. He’s the leader of this team and has been a leader of this franchise for a long time. Now if we have to go without him for a period we’re going to have to really ask some guys to step to the plate.”
Matt Schaub complemented Foster’s big day with a 14-for-21, 138-yard passing effort and Houston won despite a number of costly penalties that negated a Pittsburgh fumble in its own territory, a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown and an interception that was run back for a score.
“This is a new year and we’re trying to set that precedent,” Foster said. “We’re going to continue to try to make other people believe that.”
Ben Roethlisberger completed 16-of-30 passes for 206 yards with an interception for the Steelers (2-2), who had beaten Seattle and Indianapolis after a humbling 35-7 loss to Baltimore in the opener.
Roethlisberger hurt his left foot in the fourth quarter and was given an x-ray after the game, but there were no results.
The Texans had just one offensive series, a three-and-out, in a third quarter dominated by Pittsburgh. The Steelers scored 10 points on two drives and tied the game with a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Houston answered with a quick strike to regain the lead.
Owen Daniels caught a nine-yard pass to convert 3rd-and-6, scooping Schaub’s low throw off the turf, then hauled in a perfect throw for a 30-yard gain to set up Foster’s 42-yard scoring run for a 17-10 lead with just over 12 minutes to play.
“I don’t think a sense of urgency or lack of a sense of urgency is the issue,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I think fundamental football is, better blocking, better tackling.”
The Houston defense then stepped up and didn’t allow the Steelers to cross their own 26 on two subsequent possessions, sacking Roethlisberger three times in that span, but a 33-yard punt return by Antonio Brown gave the Pittsburgh offense another good chance.
Starting from the Houston 48 with 3:33 remaining, the Steelers gained three yards before Roethlisberger threw incomplete on third down and had a fourth- down pass tipped at the line of scrimmage before falling harmlessly to the turf.
The Texans were unable to run off the final 2 1/2 minutes, but a punt pinned the Steelers at their own one-yard line with 62 seconds to play. A roughing the passer penalty wiped out a game-sealing interception return for a touchdown by Johnathan Joseph and Roethlisberger had the Steelers at their own 40 before a deep pass was picked off by Jason Allen at the Houston 11 in the closing seconds.
Houston’s penalty problems began on the opening kickoff, as a holding call forced the Texans to start from their own five-yard line. Schaub was undeterred by the long field and orchestrated a 19-play march for a touchdown.
The nearly 11-minute series featured a trio of third-down conversions, including a 19-yard Schaub connection with Daniels after a penalty initially negated the pick up. Schaub and Daniels hooked up again for the score, a one- yard pass off play-action for a 7-0 lead.
Roethlisberger fumbled while being sacked on Pittsburgh’s first possession, but a Houston penalty for illegal contact wiped out the turnover that would have given the Texans the ball at the Steeler 37.
Houston managed to extend its lead with just over 2 1/2 minutes to play in the second quarter when Neil Rackers kicked a 25-yard field goal and Pittsburgh was in position to answer just before the end of the half, marching from its own 20 to the Houston 12.
Shaun Suisham’s 30-yard field goal try was blocked by Danieal Manning, who then delivered a completely unnecessary block in the back to negate Joseph’s 61-yard return for a touchdown on the final play of the half.
The Steelers regrouped at halftime and drove 74 yards on 13 plays with the first series of the third quarter to pull within three. Rashard Mendenhall scored on a three-yard run to finish the nearly eight-minute set.
Houston went three-and-out, and Pittsburgh marched right back down the field for the tying field goal — a 26-yarder by Suisham on the first play of the fourth quarter.