Texans OT Brown to face rough test in Pittsburgh
By DALE ROBERTSON Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Sept. 6, 2008, 12:26AM
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Once in Pittsburgh there stood the Steel Curtain, anchored across the middle by Hall of Fame linebackers Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. But even the two Jacks, building blocks of a four Super Bowl-championship dynasty, never took charge of a half to the extent that Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison did on a Monday night last fall against the Baltimore Ravens.
Harrison was an angry man among boys, forcing three fumbles and recovering another, pummeling quarterback Steve McNair three times and intercepting one of his passes. Those turnovers led to 21 Steelers points as Pittsburgh built a 35-0 lead after two quarters en route to a 38-7 victory. And Harrison was wreaking all that havoc despite lining up opposite the Ravens’ All-Pro left tackle, Jonathan Ogden.
A fellow linebacker said later, “You only see something like that when you’re playing a video game.”
On Sunday, it’s Harrison who will be officially welcoming Texans rookie left tackle Duane Brown to the NFL. Texans coach Gary Kubiak was asked if his top draft choice, who had a surprisingly trouble-free indoctrination to the ways of pro football during the less-intense preseason, might have a few growing pains ahead of him.
‘He’s our best guy’
“I bet he does,” Kubiak said. “But he’s been a rock. He works. He does his job, and he’s gotten better every week. This will be the ultimate challenge. He’s got to go through these things to become a big-time player.”
Brown has shown he deserves to be the starter — “He’s our best guy,” Kubiak says — so into the breach he must be thrown, charged with protecting quarterback Matt Schaub against a man who can some days be, as the Ravens will attest, a force of nature.
A complication is Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defensive set, something Brown rarely saw in college. Knowing the Steelers loomed first on the schedule followed by the Ravens, who also use the 3-4, the Texans have shown the set frequently during pre-season practice.
It was also helpful to play Dallas in the third preseason game because the Cowboys employ it. (Dallas coach Wade Phillips’ father, Bum, invented the defense nearly 40 years ago.) But the intensity level of the Heinz Field trenches will be a new experience for Brown.
“Duane was born ready,” guard Chester Pitts said. “He has to be — he’s playing next to me.
“We can’t have the left side looking bad out there. I’ll make sure he knows who he has (to block) and then just let his talent take over. But (the 3-4) can be really confusing. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at it in practice, trying to get ready.”
Pitts remembers how nervous he was before his first regular-season NFL game — and he had the added benefit of having scrimmaged during training camp against the Cowboys, who were the Texans’ opening-day opponent in 2002.
“The regular season is just a different deal,” he said. “You find that out quick. If you mess up, you get the quarterback killed.”
Done his homework
“I’ve just got to stayed screwed in and see what happens,” he said. “The nerves are going to be there. You’ve just got to play through it.”
Regarding Harrison, who is 6-0 and 240 pounds of pent-up fury: “He’s smaller than a lot of guys, but he’s real fast coming off the edge and he gets a lot of movement on the tackles because of his strength and leverage. It’s a different kind of challenge for me.
“And you never know with Pittsburgh where (blitzes) are coming from. It’s going to be hectic out there. But that’s where film study comes in.
“We’ve looked at everything they do. I’ve just got to stay poised and communicate with my teammates.”
Which doesn’t mean turning to Schaub and screaming, “Look out!”