Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 4: Texans 30, Steelers 6 — Four Winners, Four Losers

C.J. Stroud has Texans fans and teammates believing.
Photo by Jackson Gorman
C.J. Stroud has Texans fans and teammates believing.

Six hundred forty four days. Coming into Sunday, that's how long it had been since Houston Texan fans had been able to experience any semblance of joy leaving NRG Stadium, because that was the last time that the Houston Texans won a home football game. Like so much surrounding and within the Houston Texans over the last several months, that outcome changed on Sunday.

On Sunday, the Houston Texans didn't just defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, by a score of 30-6. They squelched out the Steelers' will to live. Amidst an NRG Stadium that was celebratory (with J.J. Watt going into the Ring of Honor) yet hostile (with tens of thousands of Steelers fans making the road trip to Houston), DeMeco Ryans continued to put his stamp on this organization, and C.J. Stroud took another big step to showing he is the team's truth under center.

When Texan fans walked out of the building after rare victories the last few years, the were always a caveat that came with it. Four years ago, it was that every win meant Bill O'Brien stuck around that much longer. Wins in the last three years were just temporary distractions from a bleak overall bigger picture.

With DeMeco Ryans and C.J. Stroud in the building, the Texans have an "anything is possible" feel to them that is a mix between sheer joy and utter relief. On Sunday, there were winners and losers, let's go through them!

WINNERS
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Greenard's sack of Pickett was the biggest play of the game.
Photo by Jackson Gorman
4. Jonathan Greenard
For the first three years of his career, Greenard has flashed the ability, at times, to be an impact edge rusher. In 2022, he was injured for most of the season, but in 2023, under DeMeco Ryans he has been healthy and impactful. On Sunday, Greenard had two sacks, including, in my estimation, the biggest play of the game — a sack of Kenny Pickett on 4th and 1 at the Texans 33 yard line, with the Texans hanging onto a 16-6 lead in the third quarter. The sack knocked Pickett out of the game, gave the ball back to the Texans, and they would go on to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to complete the blowout.
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Bobby Slowik (back left) schemed up some great plays for the Texans on Sunday.
Photo by Jackson Gorman
3. Bobby Slowik
The Texans offensive coordinator has come a long way in two weeks. Against the Colts two weeks ago, I took him to task for conservative play calling and slow, clock draining execution, while down 21 points in the second half. On Sunday, Slowik did so many things that are staples of high level offensive coordinators. He drew up an opening drive that resulted in a touchdown. He was able to squeak a field goal out of 53 seconds worth of clock with one timeout from his own 24 yard line in the second quarter. He was creative — Tank Dell reverses, a halfback option pass for a TD. Finally, Slowik went for a kill shot touchdown to go up 30-6 after bleeding nearly seven minutes of game clock in the fourth quarter. Kudos to Coach Slo!
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Nico Collins was off to the races for 168 yards on seven catches.
Photo by Jackson Gorman
2. Nico Collins
This is a franchise that has had future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson as its primary receiver for a decade. From there, the next six seasons, DeAndre Hopkins held that title. It's been three years now where the Texans have had a big, strong go-to receiver that a quarterback can count on, but Nico Collins seems to be evolving into that guy. On Sunday, he had another huge day, with seven catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Collins is now on pace for over 90 catches and over 1,800 yards receiving. Those are Andre Johnson level numbers. We will see if he can keep it up.
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C.J. Stroud was outstanding once again.
Photo by Jackson Gorman
1. C.J. Stroud
What can you say about Stroud that hasn't already been said? Every week, he's gotten better, and every week, he's further improved. I haven't yet looked at the numbers he's piled up through four games to see where they stand historically. I just know that he has engineered these last two wins virtually mistake free (zero sacks, zero picks), and he's done so while bringing a swagger to the team that we haven't seen in years. C.J. Stroud is the truth.

LOSERS
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Kenny Pickett is not the answer in Pittsburgh, and now he's hurt.
Photo by Jackson Gorman
4. Kenny Pickett
I actually picked the Texans to beat the Steelers two weeks ago, before the Texans had even beaten the Jaguars, and just after the Texans had lost to the Colts to go 0-2. Why was I so confident the Texans would defeat the Steelers? Because Kenny Pickett is terrible, and he lived down to the hype on Sunday, going 15-23 for 114 yards and a pick. I guess the easiest way to sum it up would be to say that I never felt like there was a single point in the game where Pickett threatened the Texans. Not one.
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Pittsburgh OC Matt Canada is on thin ice.
Photo by Jackson Gorman
3. Matt Canada
Hey, remember that Greenard sack on 4th and 1 that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? Well, you know who thought it would be a good idea to have Pickett throw on a short yardage conversion, instead of handing it off to Najee Harris (who had broken roughly 50 tackles that quarter, it felt like)? Steelers OC Matt Canada, who was already under fire coming into this game. Play calls like that one are what get you fired. I'd be shocked if he made it past the midseason point still employed.

2. Seattle Mariners fans
Poor Mariners fans. Their team took the season series from the Astros in 2023, a feat that they celebrated like they'd won the actual World Series. However, they ended up not even making the playoffs. I decided that it was necessary to remind these cocky weirdos where their place in the baseball universe was on Saturday night as they were eliminated:
But hey, thanks for beating the Rangers on Sunday to help us clinch the division, Mariners.
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The Texans shut down Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt.
Photo by Jackson Gorman
1. T.J. Watt
Watt is a wonderful player and a great dude. He came into Sunday's game as the odds on favorite, early in the season, to win his second Defensive Player of the Year Award, with six sacks and a touchdown in the first three games. On Sunday, the Texans managed to scheme him right out of the game, behind a largely backup caliber offensive line. It was actually quite remarkable. Watt finished with two very quiet tackles, no sacks, and one QB hit. I'm guessing his DPoY odds take a hit this week. That said, it was a beautiful ceremony at halftime, where his brother J.J. went into the Texans Ring of Honor. Stupendous!

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