A bright day, the sun shining down and in the stands the Terrible Towels were waving high and fast in the city of steel. The Steelers were facing the Houston Texans for the third time in the history of the young Texas franchise. The electricity of the day, the season opener at home for the Steelers could be felt by this Steeler’s fan through the very screen of the television as I watched the opening of the game. By the end of the game, the lyrics from Sweet’s song, "Little Willy" kept playing over and over in my head:
North side, east side
Little Willy, Willy wears the crown, he's the king around town
Willy drives them silly with his star shoe shimmy shuffle down
Way past one, and feeling alright
'Cause with little Willy round they can last all night
Hey down, stay down, stay down down
We had questions going into this game. Would the Steelers extend their winning streak to six straight games at home for the season opener? How well will the Steelers o-line line hold up to the likes of Mario Williams? What factor would Willie Parker’s injury from last year play? Would there be improvement in the special teams play? In the end, for this day, the questions were answered.
For those who wondered how well the oline would do without Alan Faneca, that was answered by 138 rushing yards allowed by the Texan’s defense and three touchdown runs by Willie Parker. There would be no doubt that Chris Kemoetu was more then an adequate replacement for Faneca. The o-line, for the most part, continued to hit hard, giving protection to Ben Roethlisberger and opening up the rushing lanes for Willie to run. If one were to ask if there was a weak link on the Steelers oline, it would have to be with Willie Colon. Hopefully Colon will continue to improve and not miss crucial blocks to help protect Roethlisberger.
Ben Roethlisberger seems to have finally come to full maturity, showing quick release of the ball at times to hit his TE Heath Miller and there was no controversy with taller wide receivers when Ben connected with Hines Ward six times, twice resulting in a touchdown. If there were any questions about the chemistry between the young quarterback and the veteran wide receiver, it was answered in this game. At the end, Roethlisberger would have an almost perfect night completing 13 of 14 passes, and has shown that this offense could possibly be a complete, pick your poison offense.
The Steeler defense showed why they were the number one defense from last season and promises to be a hard hitting, topped rank defense again this year. Troy Polamalu proved that he was still an integral part of this defense, not only with his hard hitting stops in his three unassisted tackles, but showed that he can read the play perfectly when Matt Schaub hit him in the numbers, causing an interception. One exciting player, LB Lamar Woodley, made Steelers fans proud with his sack on Schaub, as well as a one handed interception. However, if you were to ask who was the defensive player for this game, no one could deny it would be pro-bowl linebacker James Harrison with six unassisted tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble. No doubt that the showing of this defense was a great way for Dick LeBeau to start his 50th year in the NFL.
Also exciting was to watch the speed and the hard hitting defense on the Steelers special teams. Also considered one of the weaker links in the Steeler’s team, the defensive play of the special teams, yesterday, though they allowed some yardage on punt and kick off returns, the stifled any explosive plays that is possible with the Texans wide receivers. Jeff Reed was his typical consistent self kicking one field goal and making 5 of 5 of the extra points.
It wasn’t all Pittsburgh positives though. Matt Schaub passed for 202 yards, his key receiver, Andre Johnson catching 10 passes for 110 yards, making this duo a viable passing threat in the AFC. Mario Williams proved why the Texans made him their first one draft choice in 2006. Williams and the front four played fast and hard against the Pittsburgh’s oline and it payed off twice with two sacks on Roethlisberger, one leading to a forced fumble. In the end though, Texans just entered hostile terrority where many teams met the same fate on opening day at Heinz Field.
Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau, Bruce Arians and the whole Steelers team played the style of football that we've become use to with this hard hitting team and continues to keep them a dominant force in the AFC and the NFL today. Welcome to Steelers football.