Monday, September 8, 2008

Texas Hold 'em: Steelers WIN


Coming into this game, there was increasing concern around tSn@ about the effectiveness of the Steelers offensive line and their ability to handle Houston's front 7 which featured 2 first round picks and a Pro Bowler. Needless to say, those concerns were answered in resounding fashion. Previously, the Texans were the only team in the NFL that the Steelers had never beat at home. Granted, the Steelers were 0-1 against them, but it was still a statistic that made you nervous.

The game started with a touching tribute to Ernie Holmes, Dwight White and Myron Cope, members of the Steelers family who passed away over the last year. Along with representatives from their families, the Steelers had legends L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount, and Joe Greene on the field to honor the departed.

The Terrible Towel display during the moment of silence for the departed.

After that, things started rocking. In true Steelers fashion, they brought out a highlight act to sing the Star Spangled Banner.

Charlie Daniels can still belt it.
Ironically, there's a Texas flag in the background of this picture. It would be the best anything from Texas not named Casey Hampton would look all game.

Harvey Dent strikes back. Houston wins the toss and elects to recieve.

Reed pounds the opening kickoff into the end zone, but Andre Davis elects to bring it out and barely makes it over the 20.

The Texans come out throwing as Schaub hits Kevin Walter on an out route for 11 yards. Schaub tries a swing pass to Green, but Polamalu blows it up. Andre Johnson makes his first appearance of the game and snags one for a first down, quieting the crowd a bit. Apparently the Texans didn't remember what happened last time Steve Slaton played against a team from Pittsburgh, and they brought him in for Green. The D stands on first down, but Farrior jumps offsides on second down, and Slaton picks up 2 to set up 3rd and 3. Schaub hits a short pass but Deshea is there for the stop to set up 4th and 1. With the ball at midfield, Houston opts to go for it. Apparently Casey Hampton heard there were Cheesy Poofs on the Texans side of the line because he sliced between the guard and center and stopped Schaub in his tracks on a QB sneak.

After the TV timeout, Houston threw the red flag, hoping to get the call overturned, but it wasn't happening.

Ben comes out with a short field and hands off to Willie for no gain. But right off the bat, just like in the preseason...

It's about time more people started making this joke. Heath needs t-shirts.

Ben hits Heath for 6 to set up a 3rd and 4. Everyone around us in Section 107 was trying to guess who would catch the 3rd down pass. Shockingly, Ben takes off a la Kordell Stewart and scrambles for a huge 17-yard gain to take over the team lead in rushing yards for the season.

Willie, determined not to let Ben be the leading rusher on the team for too long, picks up 3 and 4 on the next two plays before Ben hits Santonio on a slant route to pick up the first down. Santonio, tell the boys in white what down it is.

Ben hits Hines in the flat on the next play to get the ball down to the 7. On 2nd and 4, we were calling for Heath, but Ben hands it off to Willie who bounces it to the outside and turns on the afterburners to hit the corner of the end zone.


Houston came out with a chance to respond. On first down, Schaub escaped pressure from Woodley and Keisel but threw and incomplete pass. That set the tone for the rest of the drive. Slaton picked up 8 and Johnson hauled in a first down pass to keep the drive alive. Schaub ran play-action and rolled out as the entire line fell for the fake and found Andre Johnson downfield for 24 yards as Woodley bore down on him. But the Big Stick policy was about to be enacted.

Houston decides not to block Woodley and he buries Schaub in the turf.

Ahman Green ran for 8 yards on a draw play to get the Texans back to 3rd 11. Schaub tried to roll out, but Nick Eason was all over the contain and Farrior buried him for the second sack in 3 plays.

Remind you of the old Steelers anyone?

Mewelde Moore makes a nice running fair catch and it's our ball again.

Ben runs play-action on first down and goes downtown for Hines who makes a great catch while a defender is hanging all over him then takes it all the way to the Houston 2 as laundry litters the field. On an absolutely terrible call, they called offsetting penalites. Offensive pass interference on Hines for "pushing off" a defender that was hanging all over him, and facemask on Houston at the end of the play. The penalties offset, and it was first down...again.

Mario Williams stopped Willie on first down part 2, but Ben found Heath down the seam to move the chains. As hard as this might be to believe, Ben was pressured and threw the ball away on the next play, which would end up being his only incomplete pass of the game. Ben went back to Hines across the middle and he scampered for some great YAC yards to get the ball down to the Houston 34 as the quarter ended.

Second Quarter

The Steelers came down to our end of the stadium to score, and they didn't let us down. Parker for 2, then back to Heath for 9 to move the chains again. Parker got held to 1 twice. On 3rd and long it was looking like Field Goal city, but Ben hits Santonio for the first down and more as Santonio fumbles the ball out of bounds at the end of the play, giving us all a scare. The butterfingers continued as Ben dropped the next snap and had to fall on the ball. So what do you do when you're having trouble holding on to the ball? Run the ball. And that's exactly what we did. Parker takes it to the left side and Marvel Smith throws a great block to allow him to take it to the house for his second touchdown of the day.


It was around this time that rumors started circulating around the stadium that Tom Brady had gone down with a knee injury, but no one knew how long he was out for so we weren't certain about how much our chances of winning the AFC had just improved.

To make things better, the Texans came back onto the field on offense. Slaton for 4, Slaton for 2. Schaub tries to dump off a short pass but Big Stick reaches out a limb and tips the ball back to himself for the interception.

Mendenhall comes in and busts for 6 yards on his first carry. Mendenhall got dragged down by his facemask and the ref right in front of him didn't throw his flag. Luckily, the ref from the far corner chucked his flag across the field to make the call. Absurd. 1st and 10 from the 13. The Steelers line up with Hines in the slot and you know what's coming. Ben runs a perfect play action, takes one step back and fires one across the middle. Houston's defense is caught flat-footed and Hines pulls it down for the touchdown.


Houston comes back out with 9 minutes to go in the half and the Steelers defense is primed to put the game away. Houston picks up one first down, but then Green gets stopped in the backfield and Houston is called for Offensive Pass Interference for blocking downfield while the ball was in the air on a slip screen. On 2nd and 21, Schaub fires left but the hair is there and Polamalu comes up with his first pick of the year.

With the ball on the 32, the Steelers were ready to drive the nail in the coffin, but on the first play Mario Williams gets free and sacks Ben. The ball comes loose and DeMeco Ryans scoops it up and charges the other way. Willie Parker finally makes the tackle, but gets called for a facemask and the Texans get the ball at the 12.

Woodley and the Diesel stop Slaton in the backfield on first down. Farrior and Smith plug up the hole on second down to force a 3rd and 15. Schaub dumps one off to Green and Timmons makes a great open-field tackle. Former Steeler Kris Brown comes on to a chorus of boos and knocks home a 34-yard field goal.

Parker came out with two solid runs to set up 3rd and 2, but Mario Williams found his way to Ben again and brought him down for a sack. Mitch Berger came on for his first punt of the year. Willie Gay made a great tackle running from the outside to stop the Texans returner in his tracks.

With a little under 3 minutes left, Houston seems poised to cut into the lead even more. Schaub hits Slaton for 5 then Owen Daniels for 10 to move the chains. Schaub completes another pass, but that would be his last of the half. The Diesel applies the heat and Schaub can't find his receiver on 2nd down. Townsend gets a hand on a 3rd down pass that Clark might have picked off if Deshea handn't gotten a paw on it. Turk punts it into the end zone for a touchback.

The Steelers look content to run out the clock with Parker, but Houston uses a timeout after second down to force the Steelers to make a decision on 3rd down. Unlike the wimpy play call Arians made in the playoff game on 3rd and 5, Ben fires one to Hines to pick up the first down. Ben gets up a little slow, but makes his way up to the line, calls a play and hands off to Willie to end the half.

Third Quarter

After watching a very innebriated Charlie Daniels lip-sync through "In America" at halftime, we were anxious to see the Steelers back on offense to make sure Ben was okay.

The Steelers get the kick and it was the Willie Parker show. He starts the drive with runs of 12, 9, and 8 yards. After a penalty for defensive holding on another run by the Flash, Mendenhall coems in to give Willie a breather. Mendenhall carries for 6 and 9 yards to get the ball into the red zone. Parker comes back in and picks up 3. The Steelers come out on 2nd and 7 with a double-tight Power I set with Ward and Holmes on the sidelines. The guy next to me says "This looks like the old Steelers! We're gonna run it right at them." To everyone's surprise, Ben fakes a pitch to Parker and hits Davis all alone in the flat to move the ball down to the 6. Parker pounds out 2 hard yards to get the ball to the 4. On a play that looked eerily similar to the play they ran for his second touchdown run, Parker goes off-tackle again and takes it to the house for touchdown #3.


What a great drive to start the second half. 10 plays (9 of them rushing), 71 yards and 6 minutes off the clock.

Houston responds to the Steelers long drive by going 3-and-out and putting their defense back out on the field. Coach, determined to get Willie his 100 yards, gives him the ball on first down. Ben goes to Spaeth on 2nd down and he bulldozes DeMeco Ryans as he reaches for the sticks, but comes up just short. Parker slashes for 4 and picks up the first down. Ben mixes it up and goes to the air on first down, but Hines can only get a few. On 2nd and 8, the Flash charges around the corner for 13 yards to put him over 100 on the day. But the Flash wasn't done. He took the next handoff around the right end and broke free, but cruised out of bounds at the Houston 21 as he ran out of gas.

Mendenhall came in and bruised for 5 yards on 2 carries to set up 3rd down. It looked like the Steelers were going to be content with a field goal, but Ben fired one over the middle and Hines pulled it down in the end zone for his second score of the game.


I don't know coach, I just keep throwing touchdown passes!
That was the last we'd see of Ben, but he finished the game a stellar 13/14 for 137 and 2 TDs.

With the clock winding down on the 3rd quarter, Schaub tries to put something together and hits Johnson for 11 on first down. James "Some Kind of Monster" Harrison joined the sack party and put Schaub on the turf on the next play. Ahman Green dashed for a big gain on 2nd and long and Ryan Clark went down on a bit of a scary moment because he wasn't moving for a bit. But he eventually got up and walked off the field. Green carried for 3 to midfield to end the quarter.

Fourth Quarter

Schaub tried to go after Clark's replacement Tyrone Carter, but it wasn't happening as Daniels couldn't pull it down. Farrior and Smith got pressure on 3rd down, forcing a bad pass and a punt.

Byron came in to play the 4th quarter as most of the starters got a rest. Mendenhall carried twice and Byron couldn't find Holmes on 3rd down, forcing a punt.

Houston was determined not to give up, and the next drive showed it. Against the Steelers second string defense, Houston's offense finally came to life. Schaub hit Walter and Johnson for solid gains to move the ball inside the 30. Ryan Clark came back into the game and put a big hit on Steve Slaton. Welcome to the NFL son. Houston got flagged for a false start, but then got a huge break when Clark got called for pass intereference on what looked quite similar to what happened with Hines in the first half. It's debatable whether or not the pass was catchable, and Tomlin had some words with the officials. With 1st and goal at the 4, Houston looked poised to score, but a tripping penalty sent them back to the 15. Slaton got stopped in the backfield and it looked like the red zone defense might hold again. But on 3rd down Schaub found Kevin Walter over the middle for the score.


The Steelers come out and go run-run-incomplete pass-punt. No surprise there, the game was well in hand.

Schaub hits Johnson for 5 and Slaton slashes for 8 to start the next drive. On first down, Some Kind of Monster comes from Schaub's blindside and rocks him, knocking the ball free. A Texans lineman tries to fall on the ball, but he misses and Big Stick smothers it.

Houston challenged again hoping to get a Brady-esque ruling, but it wasn't happening. Namely because "Houston" is no where near the same as "New England."

Mendenhall ran for 2, then Byron couldn't hook up with Davis or Nasty Nate, as Reed came on to hit his first field goal of the year.


With 5 minutes to go, Houston could have just run the ball and ended the game sooner. But they wanted to prove that they could move the ball against the Steelers JV defense.

Schaub hits Johnson for a first down before being sacked again by James Harrison. Daniels snags one on second down and Slaton picks up the first down on 3rd and 4. Schaub continues to pick the Steelers apart by hitting Daniels again and Johnson twice to get the ball down to the 4. Schaub runs a play-action bootleg and no one on the defense is home as he is able to scramble for the corner of the end zone.


The Steelers get the ball with a little over a minute left and Leftwich hits the Victory formation.


The Steelers win their 6th straight season opener and 6th straight home opener.

Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball: Willie Parker 3 TDs, 138 yards
Defensive Game Ball: LaMarr Woodley 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery

Honorable Mentions:
Ben Roethlisberger 13/14 137 yards, 2 TDs
Hines Ward 6 rec, 76 yds, 2 TDs
James Harrison 8 tackles, 3 sacks

In their halftime highlights during the Colts-Bears game on Sunday night, NBC touched on every game except for the Steelers game. They also mentioned that "all the elite teams in the AFC are falling on their faces today" meaning New England, Indy, San Diego and Jacksonville.

Guess what? As of right now, we're an elite AFC team.
Cleveland looked downright awful (more on that in our Week 1 recap tomorrow).

All in all, the score does not reflect how well our defense actually played. Houston scored two meaningless touchdowns when the game was over. Great game by the O-line, especially in the run blocking department.

1 comment:

karri said...

Wow...what a recap!

Thanks so much for this. I saw very little live at work. :(

Your writing is outstanding and the the pics are perfect.

So psyched that Miller is finally getting a little glory.

Please keep this going!