Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been awfully hard on himself after just two games since his return, and the self-criticism might not bode well for a Houston Texans team looking for their first win of the season.
Roethlisberger has passed for 540 yards and five touchdowns against one interception while completing 68.5 percent of his attempts for the Steelers, who will host the Texans (0-2) on Sunday at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger played just two games in 2019 before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery, and his return under center for the Steelers (2-0) hasn't met his elevated standards.
Roethlisberger produced a less efficient showing in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos compared to the Steelers' 26-16 victory over the New York Giants in the season opener. It's all about trust, said the 38-year-old.
"That's going to be the biggest thing: I just have to tell myself to do it," Roethlisberger said of trusting himself. "I want to re-emphasize that it's nothing that the guys are doing wrong. It's just me trusting my arm, trusting the throw, trusting that I can make it because they're in the right spots. So I'm thankful for them that they're there.
"We've just got to keep working. Really it boils down to me needing to be better and trusting myself, which then translates to trusting everyone else."
While Roethlisberger credited the Pittsburgh defense for navigating the way to victory over Denver, the Steelers have been good enough offensively to contribute to the strong start, ranking T-8th in the NFL in yards per play (5.9) and 14th in total offense (759 yards).
"He's been good enough for us to win," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "I obviously think there's more meat on that bone as does he. He's just going to continue to knock the rust off and find his rhythm. The things that can only be gained through repetitive play. That's a reasonable expectation for him to continue to get better as he continues to step into stadiums."
The Texans' concerns on offense are more acute. Houston is 24th in total offense and only two teams in the AFC have scored fewer points than the Texans' 36 through two games. The Texans are 22nd with 36.8 percent of their drives concluding with an offensive score.
Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson has been sacked eight times and the Texans have committed critical turnovers on their side of the field in each of their losses. Three of their four scoring drives against the Ravens ended in field goals.
"We've got a long way to go," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "We've got to get going here this week. We've got to score more points than the other team. We've got to get going, so it's not where we want it to be quite obviously but we're working hard to get it better."
The Texans would benefit from a return to action from running back Duke Johnson, who was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday after missing the loss to the Baltimore Ravens with a sprained ankle. Receiver Will Fuller V departed early against the Ravens with a right hamstring injury but appears to be trending toward full participation for practice this week.
Optimal health only solves some of what's ailing the Texans. Their primary issues are obvious.
"Scoring in the red zone," Watson said. "Of course, we kick field goals, but we want to score touchdowns. Protect the ball. No turnovers and just clean operation. If we can do those three things, I think we'll be just fine."
Steelers wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Diontae Johnson (toe) did not practice Wednesday.
--Field Level Media