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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Steelers should make a fast start at Texans

Pittsburgh can't afford to ease up yet

DeAndre Hopkins should be fit to play for Houston on Christmas Day
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Sky Sports Action, 9.30pm Christmas night

The NFL’s present to viewers was supposed to be a Christmas Day showdown between two of the most dynamic receivers in the game, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins of Houston.

But Brown has already been ruled out with a calf injury sustained in their dramatic defeat by New England. And while Hopkins is set to play, he has been dealing with a toe injury and has third-choice quarterback TJ Yates throwing to him after injuries to Deshaun Watson and Tom Savage.

The Texans’ season has gone down the drain since Watson was injured and they have lost seven of their last eight games.

The Steelers lost control of the AFC top seed with their controversial defeat last week but can’t afford to slip up against the Texans or Browns in case New England lose.

They might be able to ease up in this match if they get clear of the Texans early, though, so a bet on the first-half handicap appeals.

Pittsburgh -4.5 on first-half handicap

1pt 10-11 Sky Bet

The lowdown
Venue NRG Stadium Houston, Texas
Surface Artificial
Weather Roof likely to be closed
Vegas handicap Pittsburgh -9
Vegas points line 45.5

Team news
Cornerback Joe Haden could return after a broken leg and tight end Vance McDonald (shoulder) could also be back. Wide receiver Antonio Brown (calf) has been ruled out and guard Ramon Foster (concussion) is doubtful.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (toe) should be able to play. Offensive tackle Jeff Allen (concussion) is set to be replaced by rookie Julie’n Davenport. Quarterback Tom Savage and offensive tackle Kendall Lamm (both concussion) are out, along with linebacker LaTroy Lewis (shoulder).

Key stat
Pittsburgh have won eight of their last nine games but covered the match handicap in only one of their last six.

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The Texans’ season has gone down the drain since Watson was injured and they have lost seven of their last eight games
E.W. Terms
Sky bet