HOUSTON -- As the Houston Texans careen toward their first losing season during the four-year tenure of Bill O'Brien, the head coach has been the subject of several unconfirmed rumors about his future.
O'Brien coached the Texans to AFC South division titles each of the previous two years. The Texans might have repeated as champions if they had not lost quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus and several other key players to injuries.
O'Brien's five-year contract runs through the 2018 season. He stated Monday that he would be willing to coach the team next season even without a contract extension.
O'Brien has previously said he won't ever quit. If the Texans don't sign O'Brien to a contract extension and he becomes available after the 2018 season or if he was fired, there would be multiple suitors for him on the open market. At this point, it remains a fluid situation and a pending decision for owner Bob McNair.
"Yeah, sure," O'Brien said when asked if he would be willing to coach the Texans next season without a new contract. "I mean, as long as they want me to coach this team, I'll coach the team. We have a good staff, we work very hard. It hasn't been a good year, we know that. We know the business.
"We're not blind to what goes on in the NFL. Everybody understands that it's a bottom-line business, but we believe in what we do and again, a lot of those decisions aren't made by me. So, I just do the best job I can to work with the staff and the players to try to get a win on Sunday."
Endorsements of O'Brien from top players have been ringing out from inside the Texans' locker room.
Despite the downward spiral of a 4-11 season doomed by injuries to star players, O'Brien remains a popular figure with several players saying publicly and privately they want him back.
That includes Watson, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.
"We have a bond here with the coaching staff and the players and maybe it's because of all the things that we kind of had to deal with this year," O'Brien said. "Those guys are good guys. You guys know me now for four years, pretty emotional when it comes to those players. They put in a lot of time, they put it on the line for us in a pretty violent game and so that means a lot to me when they say that."
NOTES: CB Kevin Johnson bruised his knee and left the game Sunday. ... RB Jordan Todman injured his shoulder and left the game. ... S Corey Moore sprained his knee and is likely out for the season.
REPORT CARD VS. STEELERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: F -- T.J. Yates was sacked six times, threw one interception and completed just 7 of 16 passes for 83 yards and one touchdown for a 54.9 passer rating. DeAndre Hopkins made an amazing touchdown catch, his 13th of the season.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- The Texans rushed for 176 yards on 28 carries. That included a season-high 108 yards for backup Alfred Blue.
--PASS DEFENSE: D -- Even though the Steelers were without WR Antonio Brown, the Texans struggled to defend Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger wasn't sacked and completed 20 of 29 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
--RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Le'Veon Bell rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers gained 104 yards overall on the ground.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The special teams weren't the issue. The bigger problems were on offense and defense.
--COACHING: F -- The Texans lacked intensity, and the play-calling was problematic.