It would have been easy to mistake NRG Stadium for Acrisure Stadium Sunday afternoon for the number of “Terrible Towels” flying.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans had invaded, and one Houston Texans player who took notice during the thunderous standing ovations for the other side was rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud.
“Those Steelers fans came and showed out today in our stadium, and we sent them home,” Stroud said after 30-6 win. “I think our fans felt the energy, ‘Man, we aren’t playing today from the get-go.’”
Houston’s offense set the tone early 7-0 with receiver Nico Collins’ 2-yard touchdown catch punctuating a seven-play, 69-yard drive. Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik had the perfect run-pass mix that kept Pittsburgh’s powerful outside linebacker, T.J. Watt, guessing where the plays were going. What was more impressive was that the Texans held the ball for 6:05 to start the game. Houston would never relinquish the lead on their way to victory, improving their record 2-2.
“For me and Bobby, we have a pretty good idea of what we both like, the offense we want to run, and he is calling it,” Stroud responded when asked about the play-calling on Sunday. “He is doing a great job. It’s been a blessing to work with somebody like Bobby, who we all can trust.”
Stroud’s confidence grows each game, as evident by his hot start in the first four weeks of his rookie campaign. The former Ohio State product extended his streak of pass attempts without an interception to start a career with 151, and notched 306 passing yards and two touchdowns.
The No. 2 overall pick’s 1,212 passing yards surpassed Justin Herbert (1,195), Andrew Luck (1,208), Patrick Mahomes (1,180) and Marc Bulger (1,149) for the second-most passing yards in NFL history by a quarterback through their first four games. Stroud joins Gardner Minshew (2019) as the only quarterbacks ever with no interceptions in their first four career starts (min. 30 attempts). He is the first rookie since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger with 250 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and zero interceptions in three straight games.
The personal records and accolades mean nothing to Stroud, whose focus is to improve his teammates and keep the franchise on a positive upswing, which would help bury the horrible stench surrounding the team over the last two seasons.
Sunday’s victory over the Steelers was the first home win by the Texans since they vanquished the Los Angeles Chargers 41-29 on Dec. 26, 2021. Combined with the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3, it was also the first time since Dec. 2021 that the team had won consecutive games and scored over 30-plus points in those outings.
Stroud was somewhat disappointed when he found out those stats and vowed to fans that he would change the culture in Houston.
“Y’all deserve to feel special,” said Stroud when asked what about the fans and the belief they have in him. “Y’all deserve to root the Texans on. Not winning since 2021, I think it was around Christmas, that is not flying for anybody in this building. I want them to know we’re fighting our tails off every day to make sure y’all walk around with Texans gear pride; y’all walk around with that swag that we walk around with when we get a W. For me, I take that real personal because I don’t like being bagged on my teams. When my Lakers lose, I be pissed. I take that stuff real serious, man.”