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fordfixer
09-08-2008, 02:04 AM
Hampton's performance worth the weight

By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, September 8, 2008

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 87063.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_587063.html)

Donning a throwback Micheal Ray Richardson New York Knicks jersey and designer sunglasses, Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton was the personification of cool confidence in the winning locker room Sunday.

Sure enough, Hampton delivered as promised.

"Like I said, it ain't about the preseason. It's about the regular season," Hampton said in the aftermath of the Steelers' crunching 38-17 win over the Houston Texans at Heinz Field. "My whole goal was to be ready for (the opener). I was ready."

It's really that elementary when it comes to Hampton, the hub in the middle of the defensive line since breaking into the starting lineup for the final 13 games of his rookie season seven years ago.

When the whistle blows for real, just point him toward the trenches and watch him go.

Recalling the punishment doled out by coach Mike Tomlin at the start of training camp that relegated him to the physically unable to perform list for what Tomlin called a lack of conditioning, Hampton shrugged his shoulders and basically said, I told you so.

"My play has always spoken for itself. I always did my thing on the field. It hasn't been questioned in the past. I don't see why it would start now," said Hampton, who received hearty words of congratulations from Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and director of football operations Kevin Colbert for his outstanding performance.

Throughout his comeuppance that included missing the first two weeks of camp and the first preseason game, Hampton stubbornly set his jaw and never wavered from a firm belief in his ability to control the line of scrimmage regardless of his waist size.

Against Houston, Hampton thwarted the Texans' futile attempts to sometimes block him with a single lineman. Hampton's refusal to be stopped opened the floodgates for the rest of the defense to crush the Texans at the point of attack.

"Hamp's the type of guy, it doesn't matter what kind of shape he's in, he's going to come out and play. You can't block him with a single guy," defensive end Aaron Smith said. "I think they tried a little bit to leave one guy on him and figured they could just isolate him and keep him moving so he wouldn't make the plays. If you don't put two guys on Hamp, he's going to disrupt your total offense."

"They're a zone (blocking) team that tries to finesse you," Hampton said. "Our defensive line plays good against those types of teams because we play so physical. They tried to get me running, cut back off me. Our linebackers and defensive ends did a good job scraping down and making plays."

Early in the game, on a play that may or may not have given Houston some much-needed early momentum, Texans coach Gary Kubiak called a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 from the Steelers' 48.

Matt Schaub learned forward, stuck his helmet in the middle of the line and disappeared. When the pile cleared, the ball was short of the first-down marker and Hampton and defensive end Brett Keisel were credited with the tackle.

The Steelers took over at the 10:32 mark with great field position and drove 52 yards in eight plays. Willie Parker's 7-yard touchdown jaunt made it 7-0, and that was that.

"As a D-line, we did a pretty good job of blowing the play up. We got penetration," said Hampton, who probably had as good of view of anyone of the failed quarterback sneak.

"They tried to lull us to sleep, make us think they weren't going to snap the ball. We just stood them up."

Again and again, as it turned out.

Houston was held to 234 total yards. The Texans scored two late touchdowns after the Steelers built a 35-3 lead.

"It's all about us. When we go out and (play) the way we're capable of (playing), we pretty much can shut anybody down," Hampton said. "That's the way we feel about it."

Hampton made it perfectly clear how he feels about his own situation.

"Everything else is just to get you ready for the regular season," Hampton said. "This is all that matters."

John Harris is a sports writer for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

SanAntonioSteelerFan
09-08-2008, 07:52 AM
Lack of conditioning didn't hurt him against the Texans (he played great!), but will he be sucking wind in the 3rd or 4th quarter against the Eagles?

Oviedo
09-08-2008, 08:56 AM
Lack of conditioning didn't hurt him against the Texans (he played great!), but will he be sucking wind in the 3rd or 4th quarter against the Eagles?

I agree. It is how he is playing during crunch time in November and December that the conditioning makes a difference. Last year he was a shadow of himself late in the season.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
09-08-2008, 09:39 AM
Lack of conditioning didn't hurt him against the Texans (he played great!), but will he be sucking wind in the 3rd or 4th quarter against the Eagles?

I agree. It is how he is playing during crunch time in November and December that the conditioning makes a difference. Last year he was a shadow of himself late in the season.

Last year he also didn't have Smitty beside him late in the season.