The Houston Texans fell 28-21 to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday to start the season 0-3.
The last time the Texans were 0-3 was in 2018 when they went on to an 11-5 record and the AFC South championship. But this is 2020 and the only bright spot ahead is next week’s home game against the 0-3 Minnesota Vikings.
Against the Steelers, the Texans led most of the first three quarters in a game that saw four lead changes. Unfortunately for the Texans, the last lead change came in the fourth quarter when the Steelers scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to put the game away 28-21.
Pittsburgh got on the board first in the first quarter with a Chris Boswell field goal. The Texans came back with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson to Randall Cobb. In the second quarter David Johnson plunged in from two yards out to put Houston up 14-3.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Eric Ebron for 10 yards and a touchdown to close the gap to 14-10 and then moved Pittsburgh ahead with a 26-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster to make the score 17-14. With 28 second to go in the first half, Watson passed 14 yards to Will Fuller to take back the lead 21-17. That was the last time the Texans crossed the goal line in the game.
Pittsburgh came out in the third quarter on the opening drive and settled for a Boswell field goal from 26 yards to bring them within a point of Houston. They then moved ahead in the fourth quarter with the touchdown by Smith-Schuster.
The game continued a trend by the Texans to not be able to stop the run late in a game while at the same time not being able to establish a run game.
“Give Pittsburgh credit, they ran the ball well and we weren’t able to do that. Again we have to work hard to improve,” Coach Bill O’Brien said after the game.
With the lack of a running game, pressure has been on Watson to make things happen down field.
“You’ve got to have a balance; you can’t just sit there and pass,” he said.
Watson was sacked five times in the game and 13 times across all three games. To Houston’s credit, all three of their opponents started the season with just one loss between them (Kansas City, 3-0;, Baltimore, 2-1; and Pittsburgh, 3-0), making it the toughest schedule in the NFL.
“We are where we are at 0-3 but there’s a lot of positivity in this … There’s a lot more football to go,” Watson said. “We’ve got 13 more games, so who knows what can happen in 13 more games. We haven’t played our divisional teams, so who knows. There’s a lot more opportunity out there and we’ve got to keep building and keep moving forward.”
O’Brien hopes to turn things around Sunday with the Vikings and keep it going from there.
“We’ve got to get our sights set on Minnesota back home. Minnesota’s a good team. We haven’t played anybody in the division yet. There’s a lot of football left. It’s not where you want to be.”
O’Brien was asked if the team is beginning to panic.
“I don’t think anybody’s panicking, but 0-3 is we’re not where we want to be. It’s more urgency than it is panic,” he said.
One of the unique things about the game is it’s the first time since 1927 that a trio of brothers played in the same game. Houston’s J.J. Watt and Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt and Derek Watt all saw playing time, although Derek went out early with a hamstring injury. After the game, J.J. Watt was more focused on the loss than the chance to play against his younger siblings.
“It’s alright. Someday we’ll look back on it and it will be pretty cool, but right now sitting at 0-3 it doesn’t feel that great,” he said. “It’s a special thing for our family but right now it’s about the Houston Texans and figuring out what we need to do to win a football game.”