Week 4 confirmed two things about the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers. Houston's 30-6 win over Pittsburgh proved that DeMeco Ryan has a tough team that should no longer be considered an easy win. Conversely, the Steelers showed they are a team that still has major question marks despite winning two of their first three games.
Specifically, the Steelers' offense continues to be an enigma. The unit was overmatched Sunday by the Texans, who held Pittsburgh to a paltry 53 yards in the first half as Houston built a 16-0 lead at intermission. While the Steelers' offense struggled, Houston's offense started fast as rookie C.J. Stroud hit Nico Collins for a two-yard score on the game's first drive.
Ka'imi Fairbairn added three field goals to Houston's point tally before Chris Boswell booted the first of his two field goals. But the Steelers' hopes of a comeback ended abruptly when Kenny Pickett was sacked by Jonathan Greenard on fourth-and-1 from the Texans' 33-yard-line with just over a minute left in the third quarter. Pickett suffered a knee injury on the play and exited the game for good. Houston put the game on ice moments later when Dalton Schultz caught a six-yard pass from running back Devin Singletary.
Here's a closer look at what happened in Houston:
Why the Texans won
Houston's offense set the tone by scoring a touchdown on the game's opening drive. Playing with a lead, the Texans' defense shut down Pittsburgh's running game and applied constant pressure on Pickett, who was sacked three times.
It's clear the Texans have something good going in Stroud, who still hasn't thrown an interception during his brief NFL career. Stroud's solid performance on Sunday included a 52-yard, back-breaking touchdown pass to Collins, who had seven catches for 168 yards.
Why the Steelers lost
It was a team loss, but Pittsburgh's offense should shoulder the majority of the blame for what happened in Houston. The offensive line (which played without starters Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor) was completely overwhelmed by the Texans' defensive front. The unit failed to create consistent running lanes for Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren and also did not provide adequate protection for Pickett.
Pickett also didn't play terribly well, but the predictable plays he was asked to try to execute didn't help matters. Matt Canada, for as well as a game as he called last Sunday, it was the complete opposite on Sunday as the Steelers were thoroughly outcoached by the Texans.
Pittsburgh's defense shouldn't be left off the hook, though. It made a few notable stops but struggled for the most part against both the pass and the run. The game's most glaring stat came from Pittsburgh's defense: The unit generated zero sacks against an offensive line that was playing without two starters.
Asked after the loss if there are changes coming to the Steelers, Mike Tomlin replied, "Hell yeah there's going to be changes."
As noted above, the Steelers had a chance to make it a one-possession game late in the third quarter. But instead of sending Chris Boswell out to try to attempt a 51-yard field goal, Tomlin instead trusted his offense to pick up a yard. Tomlin's faith wasn't rewarded as Greenard beat rookie first-round pick Broderick Jones (who was playing in place of Moore) and sacked Pickett.
Pickett then left the game with an injury, and the Texans proceeded to make it a 23-6 game on Singletary's touchdown pass to Schultz.
Play of the game
One of the game's biggest plays was submitted by former Steelers cornerback Steven Nelson, who picked off Pickett's deep pass intended for Calvin Austin III on Pittsburgh's first possession. The pick set up a Texans field goal while setting the tone for how the rest of the game would unfold.
Pittsburgh will host the Ravens in a matchup between longtime division rivals. The Steelers are 3-1 against Lamar Jackson, whose lone win against Pittsburgh was back in 2019, when Pittsburgh lost in overtime after losing Mason Rudolph (who was replacing an injured Ben Roethlisberger) to an injury in regulation.
Houston will travel to Atlanta to face a Falcons team that lost their second straight game Sunday in London against the Jaguars. In defeat, Atlanta received another strong effort by rooking running back Bijan Robinson, who rushed for 105 yards on 14 carries.