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09-10-2008, 11:35 PM
Steelers Team Report

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Inside Slant

Are the Steelers that good or the Houston Texans that bad? It’s a question everyone was asking after Pittsburgh dominated its first game. They led Houston 35-3 in the fourth quarter when they called off the dogs and won 38-17.

What was most satisfying for them was the performance of their offense, from their line to their backs and receivers. Ben Roethlisberger completed 13 of 14 passes and his arm was hit on his one incompletion. Willie Parker ran as if he never had a broken leg. Even Hines Ward, at 32, got off to a fast start with two touchdown catches.

“We need to just continue it, play good football,” said Roethlisberger, whose 147 passer rating was the 26th of his career at 100 or more. “We played good football on offense. If we keep it up we’ll be pretty good.”

The Steelers entered the season with questions in their offensive line, where they have two new starters and weren’t very good at protecting Roethlisberger the past two seasons (93 sacks). Roethlisberger was sacked twice by Mario Williams, but otherwise the line played a strong game. The Steelers had 183 yards rushing and Roethlisberger had plenty of time to throw, for the most part.

“I can t say enough about how good they did,” Roethlisberger said. “They did such great job of run-blocking and pass-blocking.”

That balance is what the Steelers hoped to achieve on offense and it appears they have it with Parker and rookie Rashard Mendenhall running the ball and Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington, Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth catching it.

“It’s fun to sit back there and find Heath and Hines and ‘Tone and Nate and Spaeth and just throw the ball,” Roethlisberger said.

“I think we showed a lot but we still have a lot of weapons we didn’t utilize. We have some guys who can make big plays and we kind of kept them under wraps.”

Notes, Quotes

• LB James Farrior wore the radio helmet for the first time in a real game and said everything was fine except when the home crowd got a little noisy.

“A couple of times when it got to third down it got so loud I couldn’t hear it. I felt we could use signals in that situation.”

• The Steelers’ offensive line allowed two sacks by Houston’s Mario Williams but otherwise played a near perfect game.

“It’s one game,” left tackle Marvel Smith said. “We can enjoy it now, but tomorrow it’s over. We did what we needed to do.”

• RB Willie Parker ran out of bounds at the end of his longest run Sunday, of 32 yards, because he was plum tired out after catching linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who returned a fumble 41 yards.

“I was a little tired. When I chased, I think it was DeMeco Ryans, when I chased him down it took a lot out of me. I know we went into halftime and rested but I was tired. I was done for the rest of the game. I think I need to condition a little more.”

Strategy And Personnel


• LB James Harrison, the team’s MVP and a Pro Bowl pick last year, had a great start to his second season at right outside linebacker. He led the team with eight tackles, three for loses, three sacks, a forced fumble and two quarterback hurries.

• SS Troy Polamalu did not have a sack or interception for the first time in his career last season. He came up with his first interception in the opener.

• RB Willie Parker is the short-yardage back. There was some question who would do that job, but Parker ran for three TDs inside the red zone and it’s all his.

• WR Nate Washington, plagued by drops throughout his career, dropped the only pass thrown to him on Sunday—a deep one from Byron Leftwich.

• QB Byron Leftwich played the entire fourth quarter but is still looking for his first completion as a Steeler after going 0-for-4.


Passing Offense: B-plus—Ben Roethlisberger was 13 of 14 with two touchdowns and a 147 passer rating. However, he was sacked and backup quarterback Byron Leftwich was 0-for-4 with one deep drop by receiver Nate Washington.

Rushing Offense: A—Willie Parker ran 25 times for 138 yards and his first three-touchdown game before he took the fourth quarter off. The Steelers got off to a good start on the ground with 183 yards and a 4.7-yard average per carry.

Pass Defense: B-plus—Matt Schaub completed a high percentage of his passes at 25 of 33 for 202 yards and one TD but he also was sacked five times and intercepted twice. He wasn’t effective until the Steelers shut things down in the fourth quarter.

Rush Defense: A—The Texans ran 20 times for 75 yards, a 3.8-yard average with one touchdown - that of the QB, Matt Schaub, for four yards. Tennessee never got things going on the ground.

Special Teams: A—It’s been a long time since the Steelers got a high grade on special teams but kicker Jeff Reed made his only try from 44 yards, punter Mitch Berger’s debut as a Steeler averaged 43.0 yards on three punts with a 41.3 net and their coverage teams shut down Andre Davis and Co.

Coaching: A—Mike Tomlin and his staff certainly had the team ready in all phases of the game. They took control of things early and never let up until they rested some key players in the fourth quarter. Tomlin even showed a little emotion on the sideline, something he rarely did in his first season.