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NKySteeler
09-09-2008, 12:54 AM
James Harrison, Casey and Clark
by Jim Wexell

From the notebook of a sportswriter who’s thinking about a song he used to enjoy as a youngster:

• The singer, a Mr. Robert Johnson, went down to the crossroads that year, peered into the future, and wrote these words about Texans QB Matt “Rusty” Schaub: “I got to keep movin’/Blues fallin’ down like hail/And the days keeps on worryin’ me/Hellhound on my
trail.”

• Well, it’s about Rusty, and Deebo.

• Deebo is James Harrison. I think ... I hope ... I’m allowed to use that nickname in public.

• Much gets made of the wonloss record of teams using rookie quarterbacks in opening games. But I’ve now seen two teams use rookie left tackles in their openers. Their composite record is 0-2.

• The skills of Lawrence Timmons will be added to the Cleveland game plan, I’m thinking, and so will those of Troy Polamalu. Their speed will complement Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, who complement Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, who complement Casey Hampton, who drives centers back into their own running backs.

• That never happened when Dan Mozes was Steve Slaton’s center at West Virginia.

• I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit optimistic about the Steelers’ chances. I wrote earlier that I like them to win the Super Bowl. Now, after the impressive opener, I’m thinking they’ll go further.

• Yeah, just send the 22 uniforms to Honolulu.

• Of course it’s a bit premature. In the press box I heard a reporter phone his boss and ask sarcastically if he’d made reservations for Tampa yet. Reporters aren’t supposed to be excited, optimistic or premature, but if you can’t get excited, optimistic or premature after that game, the hellhounds are most definitely on your trail.

• Really, the QB couldn’t miss, the RB got a hat trick, the possession WR went deep, the deep threat moved the sticks, tight ends and fullbacks caught passes, the line allowed only two sacks, the defense played like a bunch of crazed dogs, and the coverage teams allowed 18.7 per kickoff and 2.5 per punt.

• OK, so it was just Houston, but the Chargers, Browns, Bengals and Jaguars lost, and the Patriots lost Tom Brady. Tell me you wouldn’t want to take those 18-1 championship odds on the Steelers all over again. I know the cynical guy calling his boss sure would.

• Mike Tomlin said he liked the look in Rashard Mendenhall’s eyes. Even Bill Cowher came back for this one.

• Looked like Chidi Iwuoma came back, too, the way William Gay covered punts.

• Looked like Franco came back for this one as well, by the way Willie Parker pulled up — almost stopped — and walked out of bounds. Not to be critical, but I’d never seen that from FWP.

• Never been a big fan of the music played at Heinz Field, but the playing of “Spirit in the Sky” for Dwight White’s tribute brought tears to my eyes. I’m still waiting for an explanation of what happened to the late great Mr. White.

• The undrafted rookie of the game was Donovan Woods, who looked like an old vet chopping down those return men. Not bad for an old quarterback. Perhaps his older brothers, Rashaun and D’Juan Woods, should have tried defense, too.

• Gary Kubiak was serious when he told Houston reporters, “I liked the way we came out of the tunnel.” Might want to tweak that one, Coach.

• Slaton gained 43 yards on 13 carries, but most of that came in mop-up time. In the first half, the former WVU superstar had 14 yards on six carries. That’s about what I expected.

• Theories abound that Slaton’s sudden decline at WVU was the result of either getting hit on every play in the spread offense, the loss of center Mozes, or the emergence of Noel Devine. That’s quite an array to overcome against a hungry defense in an NFL debut.

• Houston reporters in the press box knew their coach would lose his replay reversal attempts. He’s now 1-10 in the last 17 games.

• The Hit of the Game belonged to Ryan Clark. Just one series after leaving the field with an apparent injury, Clark returned to blow up Slaton after a 7-yard gain. For those keeping score, Clark is also my leader for the Comeback Player of the Year award.