Mark Malone threw two first-period touchdown passes to Louis Lipps, and Pittsburgh's defense was outstanding throughout as the Steelers defeated the Houston Oilers, 20-0, in an NFL game today.

Donnie Shell set up one of Lipps' scores with an interception and Shell's fumble recovery stopped Houston's only scoring threat as the Steelers got their first shutout since a 24-0 victory over the Los Angeles Rams Nov. 29, 1981. The Oilers crossed midfield only once in the second half.

"You go into each game thinking shutout, because that's the ultimate," Shell said. "It's not easy, but we minimized our mistakes today."

Gary Anderson kicked two 38-yard field goals, but had a streak of 23 consecutive field goals against AFC Central Division teams end when he missed a 40-yarder late in the fourth quarter.

Malone passed 25 yards to Lipps midway through the first quarter to complete an 80-yard drive and give the Steelers (2-1) a 7-0 lead.

Houston quarterback Warren Moon, passing from deep in his own end zone on a third-and-19 play, was intercepted by Shell, whose 15-yard return gave the Steelers a first down at the Houston eight. Two plays later, Malone hit Lipps in the end zone on a five-yard scoring pass that made it 14-0 with 42 seconds left in the first period.

In the second quarter, Houston (1-2) went from its 23 to a fourth and goal at the Steelers' one, but Moon bobbled the snap and Shell fell on the ball at the Oilers' five.

Shell's interception was the 44th of his career, most among active players in the NFL.