HTX Texans
J.J. Watt Mocked By Steelers

J.J. Watt mocked by Pittsburgh Steelers fans after loss: It's jeers and beer showers with Texans season in doubt

J.J. Watt mocked by Steelers fans after loss: Jeers and beer showers

J.J. Watt Texans Steelers
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Bill O'Brien Texans Falcons sideline
Bill O'Brien watched his Houston Texans make plenty of mistakes. And now the first must win of the O'Brien era is here. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup
DeAndre Hopkins Texans down
DeAndre Hopkins has made huge strides this season, but he's beaten himself up over some mistakes. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
J.J. Watt Texans Steelers
Bill O'Brien Texans Falcons sideline
DeAndre Hopkins Texans down

PITTSBURGH —As J.J. Watt trudges off the field, another lost night shadowing him all the way, a section of Pittsburgh Steelers fans is waiting for him. They lean over the end zone railing to make sure the best defensive player in football can hear them good and loud — now that he can wreak no more havoc on their team.

"J.J. have a nice trip back to Texas, baby!" one guy screams at the hulking defensive lineman with full beer courage bravado. "This is Steelers Country and you don't want any part of Steelers Country. You can't handle it!"

Watt doesn't even look up. DeAndre Hopkin does.

When the second-year wideout follows Watt off the field, he's hit with a "Thanks for dropping that fumble, Hopkins!" and then F-Bombs from the Steelers fans start flying. Followed by the beer.

None of the suds come close to any of the Texans players. The stands are too far removed. A good share of the beer shower lands on unsuspecting KHOU sports reporter Matt Musil and a few yellow jacketed Steelers security guards.

 Don't look now, but that awful feeling is creeping back in, the stink that got Gary Kubiak fired and Bill O'Brien brought here in the first place. 

The stink of beer can be washed off a jacket. But the stink suddenly clamped onto Bill O'Brien's Houston Texans is not so easily removed.

The once 3-1 Texans are now under .500 for the first time this season. They went into a murder's row three game slate against the Cowboys, the Colts and the Steelers needing just one win to stay on a legitimate playoff track. They come out of it with none, dropping games by three, five and seven points.

The latest setback — Monday night's self-inflicted 30-23 disaster in the Steel City —is the most infuriating and worrisome of the terrible trifecta. For the Texans absolutely dominate this game early, jumping out to a 13-0 lead behind Arian Foster's brilliant bursts, leaving the Steelers and their fans (at least the ones who bother to show on a night Heinz Field has a ton of empty yellow seats) looking like they are ready to pack it in.

But the Texans throw the game back with the worst 73 seconds of football you'll ever see, giving up three touchdowns in the span of five plays. The Texans make every kind of mistake imaginable in this spree of horror (mishandled kickoff return, fumble, interception, getting roasted by Pittsburgh's running backs in the passing game, being fooled by a trick play).

Don't look now, but that awful feeling is creeping back in, the stink that got Gary Kubiak fired and Bill O'Brien brought here in the first place.

The Texans players can feel it. Everyone can feel it.

"This is the worst," second-year safety D.J. Swearinger says. "Two years in a row, it feels the same. Losing is . . . the worst."

The Texans (3-4) aren't anywhere close to approaching that 14-game death spiral of a losing streak that marked last season. But three straight losses is cause for real concern, no matter how tough the opponents and how tight the games have been.

 "This team has a lot of great leaders. It's time for our leaders to step up." 

Don't look now, but the Texans suddenly have their first must-win game of the O'Brien era. If the Texans cannot win at 2-5 Tennessee this Sunday — a game they should win — you can cue the Jim Mora soundbite and kiss any thought of a surprise playoff berth goodbye.

These Texans with two of the brightest superstars in the NFL in Watt and Foster need to stop coming close enough to kick themselves — and finally just kick down the door.

"I'm sick of saying we did a good job fighting back," Watt barks afterwards.

Bill O'Brien's Texans Torment

O'Brien is beyond sick watching the Texans bumble and botch great chances to come back even after those 73 seconds of horror. The Texans special teams commit an inexcusable 12 men on the field penalty when the Steelers are set to punt, extending a drive. Damaris Johnson can't hold onto a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass inside the 20-yard line in the fourth quarter, killing a touchdown chance. Hopkins — who beat the Steelers coverage all night — makes a nice catch and run on a slant for a big gain even later in the fourth. And commits the fumble that will later be fan mocked.

Then after the Texans pull within seven with 1:31 left on a beautifully designed O'Brien play (in at tight end, J.J. Watt goes out wide into the end zone and Foster catches an easy one-yard touchdown on a pattern underneath him), the onside kick is right there, just waiting to be taken. The ball bounces around forever — and Texans linebacker Mike Mohamed seems to have a clear chance at recovering it, only to fail to locate the football — before a Steelers tight end Michael Palmer finally falls on it.

 These Texans with two of the brightest superstars in the NFL in Watt and Foster need to stop coming close enough to kick themselves — and finally just kick down the door. 

The Monday Night Football cameras seem to find O'Brien after every blunder and his furious disbelieving expressions and expletives the most novice lip reader can pick up are flashed on the press box TVs — and sometimes the big stadium scoreboard screen.

The coach is the first Texan to march off the field and he's still rightly fuming when he meets the media later.

"These questions are like we lost 50 to nothing," O'Brien says at one point after some rather benign queries. "We lost by a touchdown."

Which, as no one needs to tell O'Brien, almost makes it worse. These Texans are clearly talented enough to compete with almost any NFL team. Now O'Brien has to make sure they don't lose their way — and tumble right down another rabbit hole.

"This team has a lot of great leaders," veteran safety Danieal Manning says. "It's time for our leaders to step up . . .

"The coaches have done all they can do. We have great game plans, we're prepared for every situation. It's on us as players."

It's hard to imagine the stage being set more perfectly than it is on this Monday night turned miserable Tuesday morning. The haughty Steelers fans who take winning for granted barely bother to show for this prime time affair. There are officially more than 9,000 empty seats in this mere 65,000-seat stadium by the river and it looks and sounds even emptier than that for most of the first half.

The Texans have firm control of the game. Then, they suddenly look like clowns tumbling out of a car.

"I dropped it," Foster simply says of his fumble on a night when he rushes for 73 yards in the first quarter and ends up with 102 for the game.

"I ran without the ball," Manning says of his mishandling the kickoff that pins the Texans down at the three-yard line for Foster's fumble in the first place.

"Just bad awareness, bad ball control on my part," Hopkins says of his own killer fourth quarter fumble.

The Texans are all being stand-up guys and good teammates. But it's all still the sounds of snatching defeat from victory.

In the end, those Steelers fans are showering the Texans with insults, mocking them as they head into another lost night and a very uncertain future.