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09-28-2011, 09:14 PM
Steelers not sweating bumpy start
http://www.khou.com/sports/Steelers-not ... html?flv=1 (http://www.khou.com/sports/Steelers-not-sweating-bumpy-start--130744903.html?flv=1)
Posted on September 28, 2011 at 6:15 PM
PITTSBURGH -- Here’s all you need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers state of mind: The shuffleboard table is still busy.
Moments after fielding a series of questions on why the Steelers don’t exactly look like the Steelers through the season’s first three weeks, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joined cornerback Ike Taylor at the table to take on a couple of teammates in what is becoming a weekly battle for locker room supremacy.
To the players, Pittsburgh’s so-so 2-1 start is just that, a start. They judge seasons around here by what happens in January, not September.
"I think we’re a team that’s trying to figure out ourselves," tight end Heath Miller said. "Hopefully, we can do it sooner rather than later."
There’s plenty to be concerned about, to be sure. The running game is in a rut. The offensive line is banged up and will go into Sunday’s game at Houston (2-1) with its fourth different combination in as many weeks. The defense can’t seem to get the ball back.
Even the coach is off his game.
Mike Tomlin lost track of how many timeouts the Steelers had in the final minute of Sunday’s 23-20 win over Indianapolis. He called a timeout with 8 seconds and the team in field goal range figuring if there was a botched snap all holder Dan Sepulveda had to do is fall on it and the team would get another shot.
One problem. The Steelers didn’t have any more timeouts in case disaster struck. The issue was moot when Shaun Suisham drilled the game-winner. The surprising mental gaffe, however, was not lost on Tomlin.
"I have to get better too," he said. "I am a guy in development from a game management standpoint. I don’t run away from that."
And the Steelers aren’t running away from their problems, even if they’re winning in very un-Steelerlike fashion. The franchise that leads the NFL in rushing since the 1970 merger is throwing it all over the lot.
Sure, Roethlisberger has more weapons at his disposal now than at any time in his career. Still, the inability to running back Rashard Mendenhall is an issue.
Mendenhall has just 148 yards through three games, or 184 yards less than he had through the same period a year ago when opponents were lining up to stop him while Roethlisberger served a suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
The fourth-year back acknowledges he’s frustrated. He benefited last year when owner Art Rooney mandated the team return to bruising running game that’s become part of the franchise’s trademark.
He’s not ready to say the offense has gone back the other way even if he didn’t exactly endorse offensive coordinator Bruce Arians’ gameplan.
"We’re just running what’s called," Mendenhall said.
Coach Mike Tomlin stressed there’s not enough of a sample size
to say the Steelers can’t run the ball.
"I’ll acknowledge that we didn’t do well the other night and that we better improve in that area and improve in a hurry because we desire to be balanced offensively," Tomlin said.
Having enough healthy bodies along the offensive line would help. Marcus Gilbert (shoulder), Doug Legursky (shoulder) and Jonathan Scott (ankle) all spent time on the sidelines against the Colts after getting injured. Legursky and Scott didn’t practice on Wednesday though Gilbert returned and is expected to play against the Texans. Trai Essex would start at left tackle if Scott can’t go while Ramon Foster will fill in if Legursky is forced to sit.
Though the linemen continue to live by their "the standard is the standard" mantra, having different guys line up in different spots every week doesn’t do much for cohesion.
"I feel like we lose linemen around here more than any other team and I don’t know why," Roethlisberger said. "Those guys need to get into a rhythm but the nice thing is they’re not off the street. They know each other and they can play together."
The familiarity hasn’t exactly led to success in pass protection either. Roethlisberger spent most of the Colts’ game looking over his shoulder for defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney and now faces a Houston defense led by former No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams.
"They can fly around," Roethlisberger said.
It’s something the Steelers defense has done for years. While
the numbers are good—Pittsburgh is second in the league in yards allowed—the veteran, Pro Bowl-laden unit has just one takeaway in three games.
There are signs of life, however. Linebacker James Harrison is rounding into form while recovering from a pair of offseason back procedures and produced the game’s biggest play against the Colts, a sack of quarterback Curtis Painter that turned into a fumble return for a touchdown by Troy Polamalu.
The unit dubbed "old, slow" and "over" by former player turned analyst Warren Sapp has turned the phrase into a battle cry.
They’re fine and they insist they’re going to be fine.
Do they look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders? Maybe not
yet. It’s still September, remember.
The Steelers understand the nitpicking. They’d like to play better. Yet they’re 2-1 despite their flaws. There’s a lot of teams that wish they could say the same.
"It tells you how mentally and physically tough they are as a team," said Houston coach Gary Kubiak. "When you have the confidence you can win all kinds of ways ... that’s what every team is searching for is a way to win all kind of ways and they’ve been able to do that for a number of years."
09-28-2011, 10:12 PM
http://espn.go.com/nfl/injuries/_/team/ ... ton-texans (http://espn.go.com/nfl/injuries/_/team/hou/houston-texans)
Mario Williams not on injury report as of 9-28-11.
Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones, Kevin Walter (all WRs) all questionable.
09-28-2011, 10:27 PM
Harrison won’t apologize to Cushing
September 28th, 2011
– By Mark Kaboly
Don’t look for James Harrison to seek out Brian Cushing anytime during Sunday’s game and explain his comments in a July article of Men’s Journal Magazine where he said that the Texans’ linebacker “is juiced out of his mind.”
According to Harrison, it’s not going to happen.
“I don’t need to,” Harrison said after practice on Wednesday.
Harrison ripped teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall along with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the controversial article.
Harrison since apologized to Roethlisberger, Mendenhall and Goodell, but apparently won’t do the same with Cushing when the Steelers and Texans meet at Reliant Stadium on Sunday.
“It’s not on my mind,” Harrison said.
Cushing was suspended last year for the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He tested positive for a substance that can be used to mask steroid use.
Cushing later responded to Harrison’s comments by only saying “I’ll pray for him.”
http://blog.triblive.com/steel-mill/201 ... o-cushing/ (http://blog.triblive.com/steel-mill/2011/09/28/harrison-wont-apologize-to-cushing/)
09-29-2011, 02:58 AM
Texans' offensive success starts up front
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/local ... 6d0b9.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/local_sports/texans-offensive-success-starts-up-front/article_73d91871-173c-5af8-9da7-1ef0d936d0b9.html)
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 11:45 pm | Updated: 11:55 pm, Wed Sep 28, 2011.
By Mike Bires email@example.com | 0 comments
PITTSBURGH — Publicly, Ben Roethlisberger says he has no doubt that the Steelers have the firepower to win a Texas Shootout.
“We’ll be ready,” he said. “I’ve always thought the sky is the limit for this offense. We just have to get on the plane.”
Might that be the plane the Steelers board Saturday afternoon for a flight to Houston?
After what happened last week in that 23-20 squeaker of a win in Indianapolis, the Steelers have issues on offense. In particular, there are serious issues on the offensive line.
With injuries continuing to mount, the Steelers will start their fourth different O-line combination. Counting four preseason games, that’s eight different starting combinations.
That does not bode well for chemistry and cohesiveness every line hopes to attain the moment training camp starts each summer.
The Steelers scored seven points against a strong Baltimore defense. They scored 24 against a hapless Seattle squad. They scored 17 offensive points against the Colts.
So how can they match the high-powered Texans, who rank seventh in the league with an average of 30 points per game?
On Sunday, the Steelers will be without their two tackles who started the season opener. Willie Colon is done for the season with a torn triceps. Jonathan Scott is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. So rookie Marcus Gilbert will make this third straight start in place of Colon, and Trai Essex steps in for Gilbert. At right guard, Ramon Foster starts for Doug Legursky, who’s out with an injured shoulder.
Of course, the company line under Mike Tomlin is that “the standard is the standard.” The Steelers have juggled O-lines in the past with success, so they expect to do so again, even against an improved Texans defense.
Meanwhile, stars of the Texans’ explosive offense work behind one of the NFL’s best lines.
“That’s their secret weapon,” Steelers linebacker James Farrior.
Unlike the Steelers, the Texans’ O-line returned intact this year: Duane Brown and Eric Winston at tackle, Wade Smith and Mike Brisiel at guard and Chris Myers at center. That tandem has not missed a start this season.
Combined, the five current starters on the Steelers’ O-line have 106 career starts. The Texans’ O-line has 278.
Perhaps Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said it best: “Houston is really talented at the skill positions, but the offensive line is where it starts.”
Right now, the same can’t be said of the Steelers.
09-29-2011, 07:44 PM
Steelers to get steady dose of Foster
September 28th, 2011
The Steelers have given up over 5 yards a carry to a pair of backs already this season, and it won’t get any easier in Houston.
Arian Foster, who won the NFL rushing title a year, is expected to start and get the bulk of the carries Sunday in the Texans’ 1 p.m. game against the visiting Steelers.
Foster, who has been plagued by a nagging hamstring injury, played in the second week of the season. The Texans held him out last Sunday against the Saints so he could get back to or close to full strength.
“All indications are that he should be fine here going forward for the season,” Kubiak said today during a conference call with the Pittsburgh media.
Foster’s return should only strengthen a ground game that has been carried by second-year man Ben Tate, who is fifth in the NFL with 301 rushing yards.
It could also put pressure on a defense that is allowing almost 100 rushing yards (99.3) after yielding just 62.8 rushing yards per game last season.
Kubiak said he isn’t buying into the notion that the Steelers are more vulnerable against the run this season.
“I see the same great defensive football team,” Kubiak said. “They’re dominant physically, that’s what they pride themselves on. I don’t see any change there and it’s a challenge to us to stay away from negative plays because they can create a lot of negative plays.”
The Steelers are 2-1 despite ranking last in the league in turnover ratio (minus 9) and struggling to run the ball. Kubiak said that is a testament to the Steelers knowing how to win — something the Texans are trying to learn to do.
“It shows me how mentally and physically tough they are as a team,” Kubiak said, “and that’s what’s so impressive.”
– Scott Brown
http://blog.triblive.com/steel-mill/201 ... YU.twitter (http://blog.triblive.com/steel-mill/2011/09/28/steelers-to-get-steady-dose-of-foster/#.ToM10_XA1YU.twitter)
10-01-2011, 02:49 AM
http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/nflprevie ... =311002034 (http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/nflpreview?gameId=311002034)
With his balky hamstring healed, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is anxious to prove last year's breakout season wasn't a fluke.
His first extended action will come against a team that's been punishing opposing runners for more than a decade.
Foster and Texans meet the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
Foster -- last season's rushing champion with 1,616 yards and an NFL-best 16 touchdowns on the ground -- has played only in the first half of a 23-13 win over Miami in Week 2, finishing with 10 carries for 33 yards.
"It's good to be back out there. I'm eager. I haven't played football that much this year, so I'm excited to get the opportunity to do so," Foster told the Texans' official website after practice Wednesday.
Houston apparently didn't miss Foster too much. With Ben Tate running for 301 yards, the Texans rank fifth in the NFL with 138.0 rushing yards, but will be facing a Steelers run defense that's 12th at 99.7 yards per game this year.
However, since 2001, Pittsburgh's defense has allowed a league-low 85.0 rushing yards per game.
"Obviously we respect (Foster) ... but I think that Tate and others have also shown us that these guys are going to be very capable of running the football," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We better prepare ourselves to defend it."
Foster, who has never played against Pittsburgh, also provides Matt Schaub with another target after leading all running backs with 604 receiving yards on 66 catches last season.
"He's a big piece to our puzzle offensively and can do a lot of things for us," said Schaub, who's completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 823 yards through three games.
Schaub set season highs with 373 passing yards and three touchdowns last Sunday, but Houston's defense allowed 23 fourth-quarter points in a 40-33 loss at New Orleans. After holding a 66-13 scoring advantage in the first half, the Texans have been outscored 47-24 in the final two quarters this season.
"There's definitely no question about the frustration that comes away with losing that ballgame," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "You've just got to finish out that fourth."
Houston (2-1) has blown five fourth-quarter leads since the start of last season, joining Cincinnati and Cleveland for most in the NFL.
Pittsburgh is coming off a lackluster 23-20 win over the Peyton Manning-less Colts last Sunday on Shaun Suisham's 38-yard field goal with four seconds to play. The Steelers (2-1)are still looking for a signature win after being routed by division-rival Baltimore in Week 1 before blanking Seattle at home on Sept. 18.
"It's early. We're 2-1. We'd like to be 3-0, obviously. We're making strides and we're slowly getting better," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who's tied for sixth in league with 314.0 passing yards per game despite an offensive line that continues to be shuffled around due to injuries.
Doug Legursky (shoulder) and Jonathan Scott (ankle) are questionable for Sunday. Marcus Gilbert, who injured a shoulder last week, should be ready to go.
"We'll be fine," lineman Trai Essex told the Steelers' official website. "Everybody doesn't need to overreact. We had two guys go down. We had the same thing happen last year and we had to band together and, look what happened, we made it the Super Bowl."
Despite playing behind a patchwork line, Roethlisberger -- three passing TDs short of 150 for his career -- is still finding enough time to get the ball to Mike Wallace, who's rounding into an elite receiver.
Wallace hauled in an 81-yard scoring pass in Indianapolis, and finished with five catches for 144 yards. It was his sixth straight 100-yard game, leaving Wallace one shy of the all-time record, last done by Dallas' Michael Irvin in 1995.
Wallace also has 11 touchdown catches of at least 40 yards, the most in the league since 2009.
"Great speed, but he makes all the tough plays, too," Texans' coach Gary Kubiak said of Wallace, who's second in the NFL with 377 receiving yards. "... you better be on your toes all day because he's making huge plays."
Pittsburgh is 2-1 all-time versus the Texans, including a 27-7 win in its only previous visit to Houston in 2005.
10-01-2011, 02:55 AM
http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/20 ... 2/related/ (http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/09/29/pfts-week-four-picks-2/related/)
Steelers at Texans
Florio’s take: The Steelers got lucky in Indianapolis. They can’t count on luck when visiting a Texans team that needs to stay on the right side of .500 after blowing a chance to beat the Saints on the fifth anniversary of the return to the Superdome. The offensive line is getting worse, and the Texans’ defensive line is getting better. At some point, the Steelers may have to sign a couple of off-duty police officers to provide Ben Roethlisberger with on-field security.
Florio’s pick: Texans 24, Steelers 16.
Rosenthal’s take: There are two options for takeaway after this game: (1) these Texans are tougher than usual; (2) these are the same old Texans. I’ll roll with the first one because these aren’t the same old Steelers.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Steelers 21.
10-01-2011, 09:50 PM
Week 4: Key matchups
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/local ... d7491.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/local_sports/week-key-matchups/article_4774775e-0fa5-5d84-a0c4-212d49fd7491.html)
Posted: Saturday, October 1, 2011 6:04 pm
By Mike Bires firstname.lastname@example.org | 0 comments
TRAI ESSEX vs. MARIO WILLIAMS
During the summer, Trai Essex allowed himself to get out shape. Due to the lockout that kept NFL teams from holding practices and conditioning sessions, Essex didn't do enough on his own. He was also on the wedding circuit. He got married and also served as an usher for Ben Roethlisberger's wedding. "Two-and-a-half months ago, I was like, 'Man, am I ever going to play in the NFL again? Did I eat myself out of the league because I got so overweight?' " he said.
As an out-of-shape unrestricted free agent, Essex wasn't drawing any interest on the open market. So he worked his way back into shape and was eventually re-signed by the Steelers on Aug. 22 after two preseason games had already been played. Essex, a seventh-year pro, was brought back to provide depth on the offensive line. Last week, he was listed as the backup at center, right guard and left tackle.
Today, Essex will be in the starting lineup. Due to Jonathan Scott's ankle injury, Essex is being pressed into service and must protect Roethlisberger's blind side. His assignment for much of the game is to block Mario Williams, an outside linebacker who's Houston's all-time sack leader with 50. Williams is a stud who was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2006 draft.
Essex started every game at right guard for the Steelers in 2009 and started five games there last year before losing his job to Ramon Foster. But today, Essex is back at left tackle where his pro career began.
"I'm excited for this opportunity," he said. "It's not new to me. I've been in the trenches. I've been in some big games. I played left tackle in some big games. So it feels good to go back home so to speak."
IKE TAYLOR vs. ANDRE JOHNSON
If Ike Taylor wants to make it to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, it will be games like today's at Reliant Stadium that will serve as a barometer. He's assigned to Houston's Andre Johnson, who, according to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, is "arguably the best receiver in the world."
Taylor, a cornerback in his ninth pro season, often shadows an opponent's No. 1 wide receiver. He's done that in three games this season, taking on Baltimore's Lee Evans, Seattle's Mike Williams and Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne. Evans had no catches, Mike Williams one for 9 yards and Wayne three for 24 yards against the Steelers. Taylor almost got burnt deep once by Indy's Pierre Garcon in the fourth quarter last week, but Curtis Painter's pass was badly overthrown.
The Colts threw to Wayne 13 times against the Steelers, so Taylor figures to be busy today. After all, Johnson is the only receiver in NFL history to catch 60 passes or more in each of his first eight seasons. Since 2007, Johnson averages 97.0 receiving yards per game. That's better than Jerry Rice's best five-year stretch. Rice, the most prolific wideout in NFL history, averaged 91.3 ypg from 1992-1996.
"You've got a guy who's big, strong and fast," Taylor said of Johnson. "Usually, the guys who are that big don't have that kind of speed. But you can see on tape, when he catches the ball, he's pretty much running away from people."
It's almost a given that Johnson will catch his share of passes today. The Steelers just want Taylor to make sure Johnson doesn't go wild.
"The great players, you know you're not going to shut them out -- like a real good scorer in basketball," defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "You just don't want them to get 50 points."
How well Taylor controls Johnson will go a long way in determining who wins today. It will also go a long way in determining if Taylor is all-star material.
10-02-2011, 12:51 AM
Once again, thanks for the nice research, HondaFixer ;)
10-02-2011, 01:25 AM
Once again, thanks for the nice research, HondaFixer ;)
you don't need to fix Hondas, that's why ff owns one.
F - Fixed
O - Or
R - Repaired
D - Daily
10-02-2011, 02:02 AM
Once again, thanks for the nice research, HondaFixer ;)
you don't need to fix Hondas, that's why ff owns one.
F - Fixed
O - Or
R - Repaired
D - Daily
FordFixer owns a honda because it was the payment for fixing a ford 8)
10-02-2011, 02:08 AM
Steelers facing different Texans team this time around
http://www.heraldstandard.com/sports/lo ... a4d19.html (http://www.heraldstandard.com/sports/local/steelers-facing-different-texans-team-this-time-around/article_4493d3ff-cb5a-5947-b200-dc9a23ba4d19.html)
Posted: Sunday, October 2, 2011 2:00 am | Updated: 12:08 am, Sun Oct 2, 2011.
By Jim Wexell For HeraldStandard.com
To kick off their last championship season, the Steelers hosted the Houston Texans, and pummeled them.
Willie Parker rushed for 138 yards and 3 touchdowns, Ben Roethlisberger completed 13 of 14 with 2 touchdowns, and newly teamed bookends James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley combined for 4 sacks, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble and an interception as the Steelers ran out to a 35-3 lead and cruised through the game, and then the 2008 season.
The Steelers travel to Houston today for the first meeting with the Texans since that game, and this time it’s the Texans who are hoping that it’s their game, their season.
And why not? It could be their time.
The Texans are 2-1 with their loss a narrow one last week at New Orleans in which the Texans blew a nine-point lead with 12 minutes remaining.
In spite of Drew Brees’ fourth-quarter heroics, the Texans come home to their dome brimming with a confidence sparked by a quarterback in his prime, a big, scary wide receiver who might be the best in the game, record-setting tight ends and fullbacks, the NFL’s leading rusher from a year ago, an offensive line that’s drawing raves for everything from its cohesion to its physicality, and a defense led by the former No. 1 pick of the 2006 draft who’s being called a bigger Demarcus Ware.
Add it up, put it in a packed dome with a sprinkle of revenge and it’s not too difficult to imagine the Steelers limping home with a 2-2 record.
And why not? It appears it’s not the Steelers’ time.
Gone are the days of Roethlisberger using his running game to keep defenses off balance with his play-action game. The pass rush that hounded the Texans in 2008 has been a shell of its former self. And the offensive line? Well, Roethlisberger has somehow managed to keep himself healthy while the running game side-steps along at its worst clip since the disastrous 2003 season.
Yet, they’re 2-1 and could add some jet fuel to their season with a win Sunday.
To do so, they’ll need to stop the following:
Matt Schaub — the 30-year-old quarterback has a career-best 101.9 passer rating.
Andre Johnson — Ike Taylor calls him and Steve Smith the best in the game today. “A healthy Steve Smith,” corrected Taylor, the Steelers’ CB who’ll be assigned to Johnson. “He does everything Steve Smith does, but he’s big and he’s doing it.” The 6-3. 226-pound Johnson has 21 catches and is on pace for his fourth 100-catch season out of the last six.
Owen Daniels and James Casey — the tight end and h-back/fullback are nearly identical, except that Daniels is a Pro Bowler of the past (2009) and Casey might be one in the future, particularly after his team-record 126 yards receiving out of the backfield last Sunday.
Arian Foster — led the NFL in rushing with 1,616 yards last season and expects to play his first full and healthy game of the season Sunday after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Mario Williams — was moved to OLB in new coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme, but hand up or hand down he has 50 career sacks and one of those nearly ended a Steelers’ championship run in its infancy. “I remember that sack. He was unblocked,” said Steelers replacement LT Trai Essex. “If he hits you, and you don’t block him, and he has all that momentum, you’ll get hurt. He’s like a Demarcus Ware clone, except bigger.”
Of course, the Steelers can keep up with the Texans if they take advantage of Texans nose tackle Shaun Cody (6-4, 301) and get their run game going. That would open up an historically soft pass defense that has improved with the offseason additions of CB Johnathan Joseph and FS Daniel Manning.
The Steelers certainly have the ability to keep up with this burgeoning, young AFC powerhouse, but has their time passed?
Sunday will provide a big chunk of that answer.
10-02-2011, 02:09 AM
Texans feature strong O-line
http://www.heraldstandard.com/sports/st ... 06ba3.html (http://www.heraldstandard.com/sports/steelers/texans-feature-strong-o-line/article_7b9b6f6a-abac-5aa5-8002-2d8ba7b06ba3.html)
Posted: Sunday, October 2, 2011 2:00 am | Updated: 12:08 am, Sun Oct 2, 2011.
By Jim Wexell For HeraldStandard.com
The Steelers’ struggling offensive line has only its left guard back from their 2008 opening-day win over the Houston Texans.
On the other side is a Texans offensive line that has all but its left guard back from that game. The stability in Houston is paying off this season as experts are calling it one of the league’s best.
“The Texans’ offensive line is a thing of beauty,” wrote Yahoo.com’s Doug Farrar. “If you’re an O-line junkie and you’re not watching the Texans, you’re missing out.”
So Herald.Standard.com called its preeminent “O-line junkie” and asked if the Texans’ offensive line is indeed “a thing of beauty.”
“Oh, it is,” said former Steelers guard Craig Wolfley. “If you are a cultivated mind, if you are a man who appreciates hog warfare, you’ll see it from the Houston offensive line. From left tackle to right tackle they do a great job. They stay in concert. They stay on the track. They throw their bodies on the backside. And they do a great job of staying on their feet and engaging their man.”
Wolfley watched film of the Texans this week in preparation for his role as analyst/sideline reporter for Steelers Radio Network.
“It’s led by Duane Brown,” Wolfley said of the 2008 first-round pick who was whipped soundly in his first game at left tackle by James Harrison.
But things have changed for Brown, according to Wolfley.
“He’s a ferocious beast. Just watching him against New Orleans, on the third or fourth play of the game he threw a guy down, gored him, and gave him the business while the camera’s still swinging by. It was fun to watch.”
Isn’t it illegal to give someone “the business”?
“Well, it depends on your definition of illegality,” Wolfley said. “But they do a great job of maintaining contact, staying on their feet, and getting after it. They do a good job of protecting Matt Schaub. They’re like African bees protecting the queen. They mass swarm and they stay on their feet and go.”
Through three games the Texans are fifth in the NFL in rushing and have allowed only six sacks - or just one more than they allowed the Steelers in that 2008 opener.
FOSTER ON FOSTER: Arian Foster said he could’ve played last week “but they just wanted to reassure that (hamstring injury) wasn’t going to be recurring.”
The 2010 rushing champ practiced all week and says he’s 100 percent healthy today for his first real action of the season.
An undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee in 2009, Foster shares his draft status, his school, his rookie season, his last name, and more with the Steelers’ starting right guard today, Ramon Foster.
“We look at each other as brothers,” said Ramon Foster. “We not only have the same last name, we kind of look alike, too.”
The two are not related. They came to Tennessee from different parts of the country: Ramon was an in-state recruit while Arian came from New Mexico.
“He came in late from Albuquerque and we had to do freshman skits,” Ramon recalled. “His fullback, David Holbert, came in the same freshman class and they did a freestyle ballad against each other, rapping against each other, and it got heated. I’m talking about very heated, almost to the point to where you didn’t know if David Holbert was going to block for Arian or not. It was crazy. But he’s a fun guy. He’s a very philosophical guy.”
Arian Foster broke out as a junior. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board. But he came back for his senior year and his draft stock plummeted because of fumbling, injury, and attitude problems. He then ran a 4.7 40 at his Pro Day while fighting through a hamstring problem. But by his second season he was a rushing champ and Pro Bowler.
“I knew he had it in him,” said Ramon Foster. “I knew that if he found the right system he was an NFL back for sure.”
PURE POUNCEY: Reporter: Was the Dwight Freeney sack/fumble/TD supposed to be a draw play?
Maurkice Pouncey: It could be either or.
Reporter: Either or?
MP: Yeah, either or.
Reporter: Is that what your coach told you to say?
MP: No, I just know what to say.
Reporter: If you don’t give it up I’ll blame the offensive line.
MP: That’s OK. We’ll take it every week. Put it on our back if we win; put it on our back if we lose.
NOWHERE BUT UP: The 2010 Texans’ pass defense ranked among the worst in NFL history. It challenged records all season before finishing dead last in yards allowed and opponent’s passer rating, tied for last in touchdowns allowed, and next-to-last in yards allowed per pass attempt.
One numerical quickie: The Texans allowed an average passer rating of 100.5, but only three quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers — finished the season with better passer ratings.
So, the Texans shored up their secondary in the offseason with the additions of cornerback Johnathan Joseph and free safety Danieal Manning. Their mothers may not be able to spell, but the two have helped the Texans, who today stand 11th overall in pass defense and allow a passer rating of 82.1.
The Texans also drafted pass-rushers J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed with their first two picks and cornerback Brandon Harris with their third pick.
Harris may be needed in sub-packages today if second-year cornerback Kareem Jackson can’t play. Jackson will be a game-time decision with a knee injury and would be replaced as a starter by journeyman Jason Allen.
10-02-2011, 02:13 AM
Today's matchup a barometer for both Steelers and Texans
By Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, October 2, 2011
They meet again
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They have arguably the best receiver on the planet. They have the NFL's reigning rushing leader. They have a quarterback who led the league in passing yards two seasons ago.
They have a defensive front seven stocked with high draft picks. They have a revamped secondary after finishing last in the league in pass defense last season.
Just as significant as the Houston Texans' push toward their first playoff berth is what they don't have: Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts standing in their way.
The Colts have been Manning-less -- and rudderless -- in staggering to an 0-3 start, including last week's loss to the Steelers. The Texans figure to benefit most from the shift in the AFC South's balance of power.
If today's 1 p.m. game at Reliant Stadium is considered a barometer for a Steelers team that has wins over two suspect opponents, it also is a measuring stick for a Texans franchise that has acquired seemingly everything during a 10-year run except the art of winning.
That is something the Steelers have all but patented, which makes the six-time Super Bowl champs more than just an early-season opponent for the Texans.
"As an organization, the things that (the Steelers) have accomplished have been tremendous," Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. "This organization is trying to find its first playoff appearance. They don't hand that out. They make you go earn it."
Fans in Houston yet again find themselves backing an NFL team that is having difficulty breaking down -- or as former Oilers coach Bum Phillips might prefer, kicking in -- doors en route to dispatching their nemesis.
Unlike the Oilers, who never did get past the Steelers in the playoffs, the Texans seemingly would settle for simply reaching the postseason.
If they break through this season -- they are the only team that has never qualified for the playoffs -- the most logical question may be what took so long.
The Texans appeared poised last season to take down Indianapolis, which has won the AFC South seven times since 2002. But after going 9-7 in 2009 and winning four of their first six games in 2010, the Texans imploded.
They lost eight of their final 10 games, five by seven points or fewer. They finished with a 6-10 record that did not reflect the talent in Houston's locker room.
"They've definitely been a team on the rise, and they're definitely a playoff-capable team," Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior said. "They have all the weapons you need to be a contender. They've just got to put it all together."
Building up to it
The Texans have probably been on the rise since 2006, when then-general manager Charlie Casserly resisted the pressure to take running back Reggie Bush or quarterback Vince Young, who is from Houston, with the No. 1 overall pick.
The Texans instead selected N.C. State defensive end Mario Williams. The two-time All-Pro selection is a cornerstone of their defense, while Bush and Young have never matched the hype coming out of college.
Casserly resigned in 2006, and the Texans have done a solid job of drafting under his successor, Rick Smith, and spackling holes through free-agent signings.
Smith has put the Texans in their best position yet by building a defense that includes Williams, defensive end J.J. Watt (first-round pick in 2011) and inside linebackers Brian Cushing (first-rounder in 2009) and DeMeco Ryans (second-rounder in 2006).
In addition, Houston signed defensive end Antonio Smith two seasons ago --- he leads them in sacks (three) -- and acquired cornerback Johnathan Joseph and free safety Danieal Manning to shore up a secondary that yielded 267.5 passing yards per game and 33 touchdown passes in 2010.
Yet the most significant move the Texans made during the offseason may have been hiring former Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips as defense coordinator.
Phillips -- coincidentally Bum Phillips' son -- has 35 years of NFL coaching experience, and he's been a successful coordinator.
Under Phillips, the Texans have switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base defense, and Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Houston is playing more physical than in past years.
"He's letting them play free and not thinking a whole lot about assignments, just whipping the guy in front of them," Arians said, "and they're doing a pretty good job of it. I think Wade has brought a very tough attitude."
Offense can lead the way
The Texans' additions appeared to close the gap between them and the Colts -- and that was before the severity of Manning's neck injury became public.
"Even when they were coming out of training camp, I thought the Houston Texans had a real good chance to make the playoffs even if Indianapolis had Peyton Manning," said Casserly, now an analyst for the NFL Network and CBS. "They can move the ball on people. They've continually done that, they're doing it this year. Andre Johnson is, to me, the best receiver in football."
Johnson entered the season with the highest receiving-yards-per-game average (80.3) in NFL history. The perennial All-Pro has a more than capable quarterback in Matt Schaub, and running back Arian Foster, whom the Texans signed as an undrafted free agent two years ago, is coming off a 1,616-yard season.
Then there is the experienced offensive line, considered one of the Texans' more underrated aspects, which is particularly adept at run blocking.
"They have a great play-action game," Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said. "What makes it great is whether it's a pass or a run, the offensive linemen look very similar."
What has looked too similar to the Texans is records like 6-10 and 7-9.
Perhaps that is why Schaub, who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the last two seasons, said a sense of urgency permeated training camp this year.
"Guys came in ready to go, ready to take that next step," said Schaub, who was born in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and grew up in the Philadelphia area. "I'm definitely encouraged with what we're building here."
The Texans started 2-0 and blew out the Colts in the season opener. But their fans may still be skeptical after what happened last Sunday in New Orleans.
Houston couldn't protect a 26-17 lead -- in part because four trips inside New Orleans' 20-yard line yielded just three field goals.
A 40-33 loss showed that the Texans are still a work in progress.
"It is difficult to get there, but I've got confidence in our football team," Kubiak said. "If you want something to come easy to you, you better get out, and we know that. I think you try to get your organization to a point where you have a chance to win.
"Can you go anywhere, play anybody and have a chance to be successful? When you get in that position, then you have to find a way to win close games."
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10-02-2011, 02:14 AM
Steelers take big-picture view when using Mendenhall
By Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, October 2, 2011
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Rashard Mendenhall is averaging 16.3 carries per game -- about four fewer than last season -- and it is no certainty that his workload is going to increase today.
The Steelers are taking a big-picture view in regards to how they use Mendenhall, and that hasn't changed even though they know they need to get their feature back going.
"We've tried to limit his carries so that he will be healthy down the line," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "If he had 200 carries and 450 yards already, everybody would say, 'Well, you're running him too much.' "
Arians said he'd like to get backup Isaac Redman more carries, but those aren't likely to come at the expense of Mendenhall in goal-line situations.
Arians said Mendenhall, who rushed for 13 touchdowns last season, is still the Steelers' goal-line back.
"That's Rashard's job," Arians said. "He's in great shape and ready to carry the load."
Scott, Meredith to dress
The Steelers will try to win today with a patchwork offensive line and not much in the way of proven depth behind the starters.
Chris Scott will suit up for just his second NFL game. Fellow offensive tackle Jamon Meredith will dress in his first game since signing with the Steelers last month, after the loss of Willie Colon to a season-ending triceps injury.
With starting left tackle Jonathan Scott (ankle) and right guard Doug Legursky (shoulder) out today, the Steelers will dress the seven offensive linemen on their 53-man roster who are healthy.
Trai Essex will start for Scott, while Ramon Foster will play in place of Legursky.
Tight end Heath Miller and Texans quarterback Matt Schaub were teammates from 2001-03 at the University of Virginia. The two connected on 15 pass plays that went for touchdowns. ... Schaub's career completion percentage (64.8) is fifth best in NFL history. ... Ramon Foster, who will start at right guard today for the Steelers, and Texans running back Arian Foster were teammates at the University of Tennessee from 2004-08 and are distant cousins. ... Hines Ward needs 16 receiving yards to pass Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Maynard and claim 20th place on the NFL's list for career receiving yards.
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10-02-2011, 02:29 AM
Steelers seek consistency vs. Texans
October 2, 2011
By Kristie Rieken ,
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HOUSTON - The Pittsburgh Steelers were awful in their opener at Baltimore, blew out the Seahawks and then slipped past the Colts last week.
As quarterback Ben Roethlisberger put it: "We've been all over the board."
That has some wondering which version of the Steelers will show up for today's game against the Houston Texans.
Roethlisberger, though, doesn't believe his team's inconsistent start is reason for alarm.
"It's not panic," he said. "We're not panicked. I think you guys and the media and people and fans try and panic for us and that's fine. We're a veteran enough group that we don't do that and we just talk about what we need to do and get it done."
New Orleans rallied to beat Houston 40-33 last week. Now the Texans are focused on making sure they don't repeat last year's letdown when they opened 2-0, but won just four games the rest of the season.
"The one thing about this game, bad things are going to happen. It's just how you respond to it," Houston's Andre Johnson said. "Of course, you want to go out and try to win every game. That's everybody's goal, but that's hard to do ... win or lose, we're going to come back and approach the next game with the same intensity and prepare the same and try to get better as a football team."
The biggest issue for the Steelers this week is a banged up offensive line that allowed Roethlisberger to be sacked three times last week, leading to two fumbles. Left tackle Jonathan Scott is still struggling with a left ankle injury and is out for today's game.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin isn't "overly concerned" with the number of hits Roethlisberger has taken so far. Still, he'd like to see what his team could do with a healthy offensive line.
The quarterback seemed a bit more worried about the injuries.
"You're always concerned when you lose guys up front," Roethlisberger said. "You like to get some cohesiveness up there. It seems like our team, we always lose linemen. It doesn't seem like anyone else loses linemen like we do. I'm not sure why. I've got confidence in those guys that they'll be able to bounce back and whoever fills will do a great job."
Backup Trai Essex will face the unenviable task of holding off Mario Williams, who has excelled in his new position at outside linebacker in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense.
Roethlisberger let out a nervous chuckle before answering when asked what he's seen of the Williams since he moved from defensive end.
"[He's] a little different than the outside linebackers I see every day," Roethlisberger said. "[He's] just a freak; one of the, if not the best. It'll be a great challenge for our tackles ... this guy's just an absolute beast."
Houston spent the early part of the week trying to figure out how to take better advantage of its red zone opportunities. The Texans made seven trips inside the 20-yard line against the Saints and scored touchdowns on three of them.
The offense met Monday to watch every play in the red zone from the first three games.
"We tried to make sure we got that handled coming into the season and it was obvious that we couldn't get it done on Sunday, so just a bigger point of emphasis this week," Houston left tackle Duane Brown said. "We know that Pittsburgh has a great defense, so if we get down in the red zone, we got to finish those drives out. Three points is not going to get it done. We got to get seven points when we get down there."
The Texans could get a boost with the expected return of Arian Foster, the NFL's leading rusher last season, who has sat out most of the season with a hamstring problem.
Some believe this week is yet another test in what could be a season of them for this team still looking for its first playoff berth in its 10th season. Will the team get back on track, or fall into the traps that have stopped it every other year?
For Johnson, who joined the team in its second season, facing adversity has been the norm.
"I've seen it all. I've been through it all," he said. "I don't think anything can get any worse than what it's been in the past years around here. I'm always thinking positive. I think that things can only get better for us."
The Steelers certainly aren't the team they want to be yet, but Tomlin's hope is that they can keep finding ways to win until they are.
"I think that we're all teams in development this time of year. I think we're bold enough to acknowledge it," he said. "We need to continue to work to get better, but meanwhile, we better do enough to get out of the stadiums with wins. We are not a finished product by any stretch, but I like the way our guys work on a daily basis in preparation."
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