PITTSBURGH, PA — The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Week 4 with some momentum off back-to-back wins but those positive steps were marred quickly by a deflating, 30-6 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. They still sit at .500 but will leave Houston with loads of questions to answer.
The Steelers won the toss and deferred, bringing CJ Stroud and the Texans offense out to face Pittsburgh’s all-world defense. After Dameon Pierce picked up 56 yards The officials began to take over the game.
They called Stroud short of the goal line on a scramble to prevent a touchdown. They got down to the goal line but consecutive penalties on Kendrick Green and Shaq Mason backed them up further. It didn’t matter ultimately, as Minkah Fitzpatrick was whistled for pass interference and Stroud cashed in the new set of downs with a short touchdown pass to Nico Collins and the Texans led 7-0 at the 8:56 mark of the first quarter.
The Steelers offense moved the chains twice on the ground but their drive was cut short when Kenny Pickett lofted an interception deep down the middle of the field to former Steeler Steven Nelson, who returned the ball to midfield.
But backed up against a short field, the Steelers defense stood tall, forcing a field goal attempt despite some strong running from Pierce. Ka’mai Fairburn knocked through the 36-yard attempt and extended the Texans’ lead to 10-0 with 1:20 to play in the first quarter.
The Steelers offense failed to mount a response and gained just two yards on their next possession before punting and lost starting left tackle Dan Moore Jr. to a knee injury in the process. Rookie Broderick Jones entered to replace him.
It then took the Texans offense just four plays to get back inside the redzone but two misfires from Stroud brought up another short field goal attempt from Fiarburn, who made a 38-yarder to extend the lead to 13-0 with 12:09 to go until halftime.
A first down screen pass to Pat Freiermuth lost six yards and set the Steelers behind schedule to open their next possession and it derailed the entire drive and they punted again.
They would get the ball back in short order after the defense stuffed Stroud on a third and one sneak attempt then forced an incompletion on the ensuing fourth down.
Pickett and company opened a new drive at their own 28-yard line and picked up a first down with Najee Harris’ legs but that was all and they punted for a third straight time.
But again, the defense gave them another shot at a score before halftime. As pressure from the defensive line began to close in on Stroud, he became increasingly more inaccurate and after a punt, the Steelers offense took over at their own 15-yard line.
But even as the offense began to gain some momentum behind a pass interference call against the Texans and a third down conversion to George Pickens. But an untimely pass interference flag on Freiermuth put the Steelers in a third and 14 that they could not overcome and they had to punt back to the Texans with 53 seconds left.
Stroud and Collins ran a masterful final drive, connecting for gains of 42 and 15 yards to set up a 39-yard field goal from Fairburn, who put his team up 16-0 at halftime with his third field goal of the afternoon.
The Steelers got the ball to open the second half and started strong, ripping off their first two plays of more than 10 yards on a run by Harris up the gut of the Texans defense and an impressive sideline catch by Calvin Austin III. Jaylen Warren ripped off an 18-yard run and the Steelers tasted the redzone for the first time, but it still ended with just three points from a Chris Boswell field goal.
The defense picked up right where it left off in the first half, forcing a three-and-out and gaining good field position thanks to an intentional grounding penalty on Stroud.
Pickett and company took advantage of the favorable field position. Harris improvised and created a throwing lane for a scrambling Pickett, then ran for 32 yards to get the Steelers inside the 10. But at the doorstep of a game-changing score, the drive stalled and Boswell hit a chip-shot field goal to make it a 16-6 deficit with 5:50 to go in the third quarter.
After another quick punt from the Texans, the Steelers drove into opponent territory with a 23-yard run from Harris and 17-yard completion to Pickens. But then disaster struck for the Steelers on fourth and one. They opted to drop back and pass and the play ended in a sack of Pickett that knocked him from the game with a knee injury.
The Texans took over following the turnover on downs and their rushing attack began to wear down the Steelers defense. Pierce and Singletary combined for 21 yards and Collins added 38 yards through the air. Then Singletary threw a touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz, extending the late lead to 23-6 with 10:54 left in regulation.
With Mitch Trubisky in at quarterback, the Steelers turned in another pedestrian three-and-out and punted. The Texans proceeded to eat up almost seven minutes of the fourth quarter clock and capped it with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Stroud to Collins to make it a 30-6 game with less than four minutes left in the game.
The Steelers let Jaylen Warren run the remainder of the clock out on their blowout loss and left Houston with their tails between their legs.