PITTSBURGH — Any thought of Jadeveon Clowney swooping in to save the day for the Houston Texans in their Monday Night Football showcase evaporated into the cold, comfortable air of Heinz Field.
The game-changing rookie landed on the inactive list for the sixth straight game and now it's reasonable to wonder if Texans fans will see him at all before November. Clowney still doesn't feel close to 100 percent from the right knee injury that knocked him out of action after one half of Houston's season opener.
Clowney worked out on the field for about 20 minutes before the game, doing wind sprints as Dr. Walter Lowe and trainer Geoff Kaplan, but there's a big difference between non-contact running and NFL game action.
The more time Clowney misses the more tempting it will become to hold him out until the first game after the Texans' bye week.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien said in the days leading up to this Monday nighter that a lot of decision if Clowney could see some limited action against the Steelers would be the No. 1 pick's own thoughts on how close to right he is. That answer is hardly injury encouraging. The chances of Clowney playing in the game seemed to decrease rather than increase as the game week went on. Clowney's limited return to practice on Friday turned out to mean little.
The more time Clowney misses the more tempting it will become to hold him out until the first game after the Texans' bye week. That would mean a Nov. 16 return (and nine full weeks of recovery time for the prized talent). Not to mention a possible matchup with fellow first-round headline maker Johnny Manziel in Cleveland.
The Texans have games at Tennessee and home vs. the Eagles remaining before their bye.
When Clowney first went out, O'Brien noted that the estimated recovery time was four to six weeks. Team delivered injury projections in professional sports are notoriously unreliable (and almost always overly optimistic) however — and it is in nobody's best interest to rush a No. 1 pick back.