The Steelers allowed 451 yards while only amassing 225 yards on offense in the 30-6 loss. The first half was particularly bad, as the Steelers had just 63 yards through the first two quarters.
Pittsburgh began to show signs of life in the third quarter, pulling within 10 points of the Texans. But a fourth-down sack on fourth-and-1 turned the tide back in Houston’s favor.
The play may end up turning the tide of Pittsburgh’s season too.
Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett suffered a knee injury on the sack. He exited and didn’t return to the game.
During his postgame press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Pickett is dealing with a knee injury. But he didn’t have any further details.
“Kenny has a knee that needs to be evaluated,” said Tomlin, who also added that Dan Moore, Pat Freiermuth and DeMarvin Leal also suffered injuries.
“Those are the four guys that went down in game that did not come back. I don’t have a lot of information as I stand here right now specifically about what those injuries are.”
Kenny Pickett Suffered Injury on Controversial Fourth-Down Call
In the past, Steelers fans have criticized Tomlin for not being aggressive enough going for fourth downs on offense.
Tomlin kept a conservative approach on Pittsburgh’s first two drives of the second half. He elected to kick a field goal on fourth-and-4 from the 17-yard line and fourth-and-goal from the 5.
But on fourth-and-1 at the Houston 33-yard line on the next possession, Tomlin kept his offense on the field. The decision led to the sack that resulted in Pickett suffering his knee injury.
Only the decision to go on fourth down wasn’t controversial for Steelers fans. It was offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s call to be in shotgun formation with three receivers bunched to the right.
When none of those pass catchers came open, Pickett scrambled to keep the play alive to no avail.
Canada’s fourth-down call put the Steelers in shotgun formation despite the fact Najee Harris had 55 rushing yards in the third quarter prior to the fourth-down try.
Mike Tomlin Tries to Explain Another Lackluster Offensive Performance
A majority of Steelers fans will probably place a bulk of the offense’s struggles either on Pickett or Canada. But Tomlin preached to reporters during his postgame press conference that everyone needs to improve.
“I just thought that we didn’t operate efficiently enough,” Tomlin said. “Penalties and so forth, negativity. It took us too long to get the running game going. And that’s kind of a synopsis of it.”
When asked specifically about Pickett, Tomlin kept his answer very general.
“We all got to do better. I don’t know if I look at it in that way as I sit here today. I’m looking at us in totality in terms of what we need to do win.”
Before exiting with his injury, Pickett completed 15 of 23 passes for 114 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception. He averaged 5 yards per attempt.
It was the second time Pickett averaged just 5 yards per pass this season. He posted 5 yards per pass attempt twice in 12 starts last season.
In relief, backup Mitch Trubisky went 3-for-5 with 18 yards.