Ok, with the special invitation from Joe Mattingly, I will be logging the Steelers week 1 report card and hopefully (with frequent reminders from Joe) be keeping up with this throughout the season. Here we go, the skinny on today's solid victory.
Offense: A -
More specifically I can break this down into a few categories.
Running Game: A
Willy Parker had a terrific week 1 showing, scoring more touchdowns (3) than he tallied all of last season (2) and let's keep in mind that when he broke his leg in late December, he was leading the league in rushing. The offensive line had a good push all day and the Steelers punished Houston in the second half by keeping the ball on the ground.
Passing Game: A
I'd say that 13 completions out of 14 attempts is a pretty darn good statistic for a starting QB. Throw in there the fact that he had 2 touchdowns and a 60+ yard completion that was negated by penalty and you can see that Roethlisberger pretty much had his way with the Texans and did whatever he wanted all afternoon. He only threw for 137 yards but playing with a huge lead all game, there was no reason to throw the ball for the most part. Ben looked to be on the same page with his receivers all afternoon. He was replaced in the 4th quarter by Byron Leftwich who did not complete a pass and seemed to be mistiming routes with his receivers (mostly backups) but considering he was brought into the fold half-way through camp this year, it's not unreasonable that the timing isn't there yet.
Offensive Line: B
The run blocking was very good, but they did let up 2 sacks to Mario Williams (who is a beast). One let to a fumble by Roethlisberger which led to the only legitamate points the Texans scored all game. The rest of their points were pretty much during garbage time. As the Patriots game proved today, one hit on a QBs knee can F up your season, so the two free shots by Williams on Ben Roethlisberger were somewhat concerning.
The Steelers defense was dominating today. The outside linebacker duo of James Harrison and new starter Lamar Woodley were all over the field and between them tallied 4 sacks, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble and 1 recovered fumble. The Texans offensive line simply could not keep them in check all afternoon.
The defense held Houston Running backs to a mere 71 yards on the afternoon. They did give up two late touchdowns, but the game was well over by that point in time. The defense totaled 5 sacks on the afternoon and 3 turnovers total. They looked the part of the defending "leagues #1 overall defense" from last season.
Special Teams: B
Jeff Reed connected on his only Field Goal attempt, a 44 yarder into the closed end of the stadium. He also was true on 4/4 PATs on the afternoon. The Steelers kick coverage did not give up any long returns on punt/kick returns and reserve DB William Gay made two terrific open-field tackles of return men that stood out.
The Steelers kick return and punt return teams did not do anything distinctive all afternoon and the duo of Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall still seem to be lackluster when it comes to both. Special teams could be a real problem for the Steelers once again this season as nobody grabbed a hold of the return man job this preseason and they gave up a touchdown in kick coverage to the Buffalo Bills. On this day, however, they couldn't seem to do anything wrong and the special teams were no different.
The Steelers play the toughest schedule in the NFL this season and if they are to repeat as AFC North champions must win every game in which they are supposed to. This was definately a game that they were supposed to win and it was a great opening week win where they seemed to fire on all cylinders for 45 minutes. The fourth quarter was mostly the first-team Houston Texans playing against the 2nd-team Pittsburgh Steelers. The offensive line is the big question mark coming into the season and for one week they looked like a cohesive unit. The 2 sacks were dissapointing, but Mario Williams was 2nd team All-Pro last season and made two very good indivual plays. They head to the Dawg-pound next week to play a hungry Browns squad that was embarressed at home today. The Browns are the biggest competition for the AFC North this season and hopefully the Steelers will match this week's effort and make a statement versus the Browns in Cleveland.
Player of the Game: Willy Parker, 25 carries, 138 yds, 3 TDs
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