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fordfixer
09-07-2008, 12:55 AM
Commentary: D-line faces most pressure for Texans in Pittsburgh
By RICHARD JUSTICE Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Sept. 6, 2008, 12:59PM
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/spo ... 87144.html (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/justice/5987144.html)

PITTSBURGH This is the kind of game the Texans had in mind when they set about to construct a dominant defensive line four years ago. Now it's time to put up or shut up.

Check out the four starters they send out to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on this seventh opening day. That's three first-round draft choices and a big-ticket free agent.

Total cost: $106 million. That's not just make-believe NFL money, either. Around $60 million of that total was guaranteed before any of the four players stepped on the field.

And still the Texans have remained consistently lousy on defense. Any team can finish No. 1 in total defense, which is what the Steelers did in 2007.

Let's see them try finishing 24th two straight years. That's where the Texans ended both 2006 and 2007. In the last five seasons, they haven't been ranked higher than 23rd.

That's amazingly poor considering how much effort and money has gone into building a defense. Between 2004 and 2007, the Texans used four first-round picks on defensive linemen and another on cornerback Dunta Robinson.

What has it gotten them? Last season, the Texans were 21st in sacks and 19th against the run. One of those high draft choices (Jason Babin) is gone, but three others (Mario Williams, Amobi Okoye and Travis Johnson) will be starting on Sunday.

So will Anthony Weaver, who has been mostly unproductive since signing a five-year, $26.5-million free agent deal that included $12.5 million in guaranteed money.

This opening game will be a barometer on the growth of the line.

While Mario Williams seems on the cusp of greatness, the other three have yet to become the players the Texans believed they'd be.

Travis Johnson begins his fourth season still trying to be the run stopper the Texans envisioned him being. As for Amobi Okoye, a 2007 first-round pick, he showed flashes of being special last season, but coaches are hoping for a huge step forward in 2008.

Weaver says he's again healthy and will be tested often as opponents run away from Williams. Others will rotate into the mix, including N.D. Kalu, who beat out Rosevelt Colvin to be the pass-rushing specialist opposite Williams.

By the time the Texans get on the plane to return to Houston Sunday evening, they will have a reading on where they are as a defense.

The Steelers aren't fancy. They were the NFL's third-best rushing team last season and still pride themselves on dominating at the line. Are the Texans up for a street fight?

"They want to hit you in the mouth and kind of see where your heart's at," Kalu said. "It's going to be a great test for us but we could send a message to the city of Houston that we are tough up front if we can take them on."

Steelers running back Willie Parker is coming off a 1,316-yard season.

"Parker is a great back, 1,300 yards and he missed two games," Kalu said. "He's very fast and elusive. Watching him on film, I was telling Weaver, 'I didn't know he was that good.' "

The Steelers used a first-round pick on Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall, who will get some of the load this afternoon.

When Gary Kubiak looks at the Steelers, he sees the kind of team he wants the Texans to be. He sees a team that keeps heat on the quarterback and controls the clock.

The Steelers have been consistent about who they are and how they try to do things right through three different head coaches and an assortment of quarterbacks and defensive coordinators.

"If you look back through the years, the only people that find a way to get out of there with a win are the people that find a way to run the ball and pound with them," Kubiak said. "So that's a big challenge for us. But we know if we go in there and we throw it 40 times we're probably in trouble. They are going to play physical. We have got to match them physically. We know that, that has been a key for us as a football team throughout camp, so we'll see where we're at."

Players say they're happy to do it this way.

"We're going to see how good we are against the run in week one," defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina said. "That's their deal. They try to stick it down your throat. I don't have to worry about a lot of play-action passes. You know what you're going to get. You're going to get a double-team pretty much every play of the game. At least you know what you're going to get. They're not going to try and trick you."

NFL seasons are so long and test an organization on so many levels that it would be a mistake to make this first game more important than it should be. It's a barometer on where the franchise is at in doing a lot of the things it set out to do.

There has been a sense of optimism around this team throughout the summer, and after weeks of pounding on one another, players say they're happy to find out if they're as good as they think they are.

Game on.

RuthlessBurgher
09-07-2008, 01:03 AM
"We're going to see how good we are against the run in week one," defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina said. "That's their deal. They try to stick it down your throat. I don't have to worry about a lot of play-action passes. You know what you're going to get. You're going to get a double-team pretty much every play of the game. At least you know what you're going to get. They're not going to try and trick you."

Keep thinking that, Jeff. This is a whole different team from the Steeler teams that you played on a decade and a half ago. Santonio Holmes is absolutly salivating at the fact that he heard a Texan d-lineman talking about not needing to respect play action.

AkronSteel
09-07-2008, 01:08 AM
The only way the Oilers err the Texans will be successful tomorrow is if Schaub has a big day! If they try to tough it out with the Steelers as Kubiak put it they will be in for a long day! I don't expect to see much running from Ahman Green tomorrow.

SanAntonioSteelerFan
09-07-2008, 01:12 AM
Common thread in these Houston sportswriters is ignorance, it seems like they are too lazy to research the current Steelers and just use stuff that sounds like NFL film fodder from the 80s.

They wouldn't say "the Steelers still pride themselves on dominating on the O-line" if they knew what they were talking about.

Hopefully the Texans coaches put together a gameplan just as ignorant as their hometown sportswriters.

Steelers: 28
Texans: 7

BIG FAN
09-07-2008, 03:38 AM
Common thread in these Houston sportswriters is ignorance, it seems like they are too lazy to research the current Steelers and just use stuff that sounds like NFL film fodder from the 80s.

They wouldn't say "the Steelers still pride themselves on dominating on the O-line" if they knew what they were talking about.

Hopefully the Texans coaches put together a gameplan just as ignorant as their hometown sportswriters.

Steelers: 28
Texans: 7

Excellent view from San Antonio.

Hogerules33
09-07-2008, 07:14 AM
The Texans caught a lot of flak when they passed on Reggie Bush and instead went with Mario Williams 2 years ago.

2 years in, and I think they made one of the gutsiest and best decisions in the draft the last decade. Williams is a force (had 14 sacks last year), while Bush is not nearly the "dynamic" player most thought he would be.

Les 74
09-07-2008, 09:19 AM
"We're going to see how good we are against the run in week one," defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina said. "That's their deal. They try to stick it down your throat. I don't have to worry about a lot of play-action passes. You know what you're going to get. You're going to get a double-team pretty much every play of the game. At least you know what you're going to get. They're not going to try and trick you."

Keep thinking that, Jeff. This is a whole different team from the Steeler teams that you played on a decade and a half ago. Santonio Holmes is absolutly salivating at the fact that he heard a Texan d-lineman talking about not needing to respect play action.


Tell me about it.WTF is Zgonina smoking???The Steelers run the PA pass all the time. :shock: