6:30 p.m., some postgame thoughts: Just finished the TV call-in show, and I was amazed at how many people are upset that Byron Leftwich didn't lead the Steelers to a couple more scores. Lighten up, people. He's the to mop up and you can't really grade him on his day's work in this game. Besides, the pass he threw to Nate Washington, which Washington dropped, was a beauty. You should only be concerned when Leftwich is in the game if it's for Big Ben being sidelined. More than ever, he's a guy they can't lose.
-- Willie Parker ran for 138 yards on 25 carries with three touchdowns. This off a severe injury late last season. I think people should just figure he's a good back and stop questioning his ability. He's capable of leading the league in rushing.
-- It was good to give rookie RB Rashard Mendenhall some carries. He ran 10 times for 28 yards, nothing special, but he didn't fumble, which was a problem in the preseason. As the season winds on, you could see him a bit more, too. You'll want to give Parker more rests for the long haul.
-- James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are the real deal. Question many NFL GMs are asking today: "He wasn't drafted, why?" And Woodley is the big, quick 'backer the Steelers love on that side of the field. He can drop into coverage and bring a load when he pass rushes. And Lawrence Timmons looks good, too. Linebacker will be the least of this team's problems.
-- In case you were wondering, Ben Roethlisberger is one of the top 3 QBs in the NFL.
Around the NFL:
-- Pats coach Bill Belichick didn't have much on Tom Brady's knee injury after the game.
-- Brett Favre had a nice debut, leading the Jets past Miami. Newsday lets us know what's going on.
-- Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto has his thoughts up on the Browns' first-half performance vs. Dallas. He'll have more at game's end, too.
-- If you think folks in Pittsburgh are upset with the Pirates, imagine what fans in Detroit are saying about the Lions flop today against Atlanta and rookie QB Matt Ryan. The story is a wire story, but the fan comments are worth reading a the Detroit Free Press.
-- Our feathered friends on the other side of Pa., had a huge opening-day win. The Philly Inky and Daily News bloggers love it -- and rookie WR/PR DeSean Jackson, who had a huge day.
That's it from Heinz Field.
4:32 p.m., postgame: To a man, from Mike Tomlin to every player, you heard the same mantra: It's just one game and we still have work to do. OK, that's the right thing to say, but you could also see that the coach and players are pretty pleased with the final result. "We didn't play a perfect game," Tomlin said. "But we rose up and played well. Now it's time for us to move on." Tomlin also praised the defense, which held the Texans to 234 total net yards, forced 3 turnovers and had five sacks. He pointed out the pressure that outside LBs James Harrison (3 sacks) and LaMarr Woodley (1 sack, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery) put on QB Matt Schaub was a big part of that success. But he pointed out -- again -- that it's only one game and it was time to move on and start thinking about the Browns next week.
I'll have more after I do the postgame call-in show with Bob Pompeani on the CW starting around 5. Anyone out there thinking Browns yet?
Final: Steelers 38, Texans 17: Dominating opener for the Black 'n' Gold. Time to start thinking about next week and that Sunday night encounter with the Cleve Brownies (a nod to the late, great Myron Cope). It's a much bigger game next week, with division implications involved, but you need to win your opener and the Steelers did that handily. And it took less than three hours. Gotta love that.
1:57, 4th quarter: Two-minute warning (or the 1:57 warning). I'll be headed to the locker room in a bit to get some notes for the paper and I'll put on a something from the locker room in a bit. I'm going on a special Steelers postgame Sports Call on the CW with Bob Pompeani from 5-6. I'll come back after that with one more post with final thoughts. And we want to hear yours, too.
5:24, 4th quarter: For the record, the Steelers added three more on a Jeff Reed 45-yard FG. Steelers 38, Texans 10. You wonder how a team like Houston, who a lot of folks thought could be a team on the rise, comes off a game like this. I mean, they were having a nice opening drive then they go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Steeler 48 and get stuffed. Steelers score and that's pretty much it. It's 21-0 before long and it's a lost cause. The Texans are a nice team, but looked bad today. Again, the debate this week will be are the Steelers really THIS good?
7:26, 4th quarter: One thing about games like this, we all like them in the press box. No real mystery who's going to win and you can figure out story lines pretty quickly. You can hear some of the press discussing other games (Geez, the Bengals are going to lose to a rookie QB and the Ravens?) The fans are leaving quickly. Stadium's about half full. Tailgates await, or maybe a dinner at home. Either way, no one is leaving thinking they'll miss a great comeback.
9:00, 4th quarter: They may be getting smoked, but that was a really nice catch by tight end Kevin Walter for the touchdown. Time for the Steelers for try to run this game out. Nine minutes is a long time, but the way the line has played today, that might not be too tough. But Roethlisberger's day is done, so it'll be up to Byron Leftwich to try to run some clock. We'll see how it goes.
13:00, 4th quarter: The bad thing about a game like this if your Mike Tomlin is will someone get hurt in what is likely a meaningless 4th quarter. You can see the Steelers are letting up a bit as the Texans drive, but in the back of everyone's mind is will someone get banged up late when it really means nothing? I guess there's not much you can do about it as a player because when you're out there, injury isn't on your mind. By the way, that was a really nice tackle by Ryan Clark. Unfortunately, it was a pass and the ball was in the air. Oops.
End 3rd quarter: Steelers 35, Texans 3: This is not going to be good for Matt Schaub. The defense is teeing off on him. James Harrison just enveloped him. It might be time for Gary Kubiak to get his backup in there. Speaking of getting hurt looks like Ryan Clark is a bit banged up, but he's walking off at least. Thing is, the Steelers are light at safety with Anthony Smith being inactive. William Gay is the corner/saftey swing guy. Tyrone Carter will replace Clark.
2:04, 3rd quarter: This is way too easy, folks. The Steelers look so dominant but it's one of those games where you wonder if they are that good, or if the Texans are that bad. Two TDs for Ward, three for Fast Willie and Big Ben is having an excellent day. Parker is over 100 yards again, as he has been for his last three openers. You guys tell me: Steelers that good, Texans that bad? Steelers 35, Texans 3.
7:11, 3rd quarter: First of all, my apologies to all for being a lame blogger during the third quarter. Been having significant connection, laptop problems and finally got everything straight (I think). The home team continues to roll along, with Willie Parker getting his third TD of the day earlier to make it 28-3. And Parker just converted a tough third-down run to keep this drive going as the Steelers attempt to drive out of the shadow of their own end zone. Big Ben looks to be fine after taking that hit at the end of the half. Same can't be said, though, for Tom Brady. As good as the Patriots are, they are pretty ordinary without Brady. Mike Reise of the Globe discusses this in his blog.
Halftime, Steelers 21, Houston 3: All the good feeling in that first half may be moot if the hit on Big Ben proves to be worse than it looks. He limped off at halftime and I'm sure the training staff is going to take a very hard look. It was a 3-step drop on that play, so he should have had better protection. He's the last guy anyone wants to see go down if you're a fan of the Black and Gold.
Overall, though, great first half of the season for the Steelers. Can't complain about much except perhaps those two sacks by Mario Williams. He clearly beat Marvel Smith at least once and as good as Smith is, probably wouldn't hurt to get him some help over there in the way of a tight end or back. Charlie Daniels is back up there at halftime.
1:45, 2nd quarter: One problem the Steelers defense had, particularly late last season, was getting off the field on third down. They gave up way too many big third-down plays. Not today -- so far. The Texans are 1 for 6 on third downs. There's plenty of time left for the Steelres to score again if they want, but a first-down run may signify that 21-3 is enough of a lead for one half.
2:48, 2nd quarter: Uh, guys, you really need to figure out a way to stop Mario Williams when your quarterback is back to pass. That's two sacks today for the guy who everyone said should have been Reggie Bush. Down to the 2-minute warning and the game's moving along at a nice clip.
4:38, 2nd quarter: Four plays and minus-4 yards later, the Texans are finally on the board with a Kris Brown FG. As well as the offense is playing, the defense just looks so quick today. And GM/talent guru Kevin Colbert has to be feeling pretty good today when he thinks back to the 2007 draft and getting Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley in the first two rounds. They look like they are ready to play in this league and make an already-good defense better. I know it's not even one half of one game, but if I'm a fan in the stands or in front of my TV, I'm pretty stoked about the season.
6:47, 2nd quarter: From adding another nail in the coffin of the Texans, to seeing a potential game-changing play. Mario Williams got loose and when he does, he wreaks havoc. Roethlisberger had no chance on that one and now the Texans are in position to do some damage. Let's see if the defense can force another turnover. Geez, Casey "Big Snack" Hampton just blew up that play. Was there a buffet in the backfield?
9:03, 2nd quarter: Wow, this offense with this quarterback is actually pretty scary. It's amazing to see how much Roethlisberger continues to get better and better, and certainly is living up to what a lot of folks thought when he was drafted in the first round in 2004. I though the Texans were going to put up a better fight, but they are getting shredded. I still think going for it on their first drive on fourth-and-one was a mistake they haven't recovered from. And it also looks as thought LaMarr Woodley is the real deal. That giant linebacker that can move and what every NFL team covets. What's not to like so far, folks? Steelers 21, Texans 0.
11:00, 2nd quarter: Excellent call by Bruce Arians on the sprint draw to Willie Parker for the touchdown. Huge block by Marvel Smith, kind of the forgotten man on the line for the Steelers. When healthy, he's the best guy on the line now that Faneca's gone. Another thing about the scoring play was it may get Parker going. He's been jittering a bit into holes and on the TD, he ran hard and followed the blockers. He's much more effective when he hammers into a hole. Wonder if we'll see Rashard Mendenhall soon? Also, that was Parker's 22nd career rushing TD, tying him for 10th on the all-time Steelers list with Merril Hoge and Frenchy Fuqua. Where are those goldfish shoes, Frenchy? Read this piece from a couple years back by Jim Wexell on the Frenchman. Steelers 14, Texans 0.
End of 1st quarter, Steelers 7, Texans 0: As opening quarters go, not a bad start for the Steelers. The call on Ward on the offensive interference was iffy, but there was contact both ways on that one. It looked to me more that Demeco Ryans seemed to be stumbling before Ward's contact, but I guess it was enough to get an official's eye and Ward a flag. Big Ben still likes going to his sure targets -- Ward and Heath Miller. The days of "where's the tight end in the Steelers offense?" are gone. Miller is such a big, fluid guy and runs great patterns that Ben must love having him. OK, we're ready for quarter 2 and the Steelers are driving again.
4:30, 1st quarter: Andre Johnson is a terrific player. I wonder if he has another big season if he'll change his name to Andre Ocho Cero? And would the Bengals Chad Johns....er, Ocho Cinco sue for copyright infringement? LaMarr Woodley just looks great early on and that was a vicious sack. Of course, unblocked linebackers always look terrific. I think the Steelers defense knows it can pressure Matt Schaub and it's pulling out all the stops. So far, a good start for the Home 11.
5:44, 1st quarter: That was efficient, eh? Giving this offense a short field is going to hurt any opponent all season. Roethlisberger looks very sharp and the 17-yard scramble was the key play in the drive. You have to love how they converted two third-down plays on the drive, something they didn't always do last season. The offensive line looks very sharp so far, though if you watch Mario Williams throughout this game, he's going to open some eyes. He's a terrific player and may justify the Texans' choice of him as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft two years ago.
Back to the game after the 8-play, 52-yard drive, which took up 4:48 on the clock. Steelers 7, Texans 0.
10:32, 1st quarter: Kubiak isn't going quietly on this one. He's going to be close on the challenge and the referee did signal a first down originally. If this challenge works, it'll be a big lift for the Texans. I still hate the call probably because I'd be a boring play caller if I ever had that job, but to me, you have to punt there. It's going to be a difficult call even with the replay. Referee Terry McAulay just made 64,000 folks happy. Steelers ball.
10:34, 1st quarter: Gutsy call by Gary Kubiak and it massively backfires. The Steelers normally are not a team you run against when you need a full yard. I don't know, road game or not, trying to set a tone or not, why not put the Steelers in the hole. Hampton and Kiessel stuffed that one. Let's see if it haunts the Texans as we move on.
12:03, 1st quarter: Former WVU star Stevde Slaton's first official NFL carry was good for a yard. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
1:03 p.m.: The season starts at 1:03 p.m. And Houston completes their first 2 passes. I'm thinking all the preseason he missed hasn't affected Polamalu. Crunching hit.
12:45 p.m. (pregame): They're beginning a video and on-field ceremony honoring members of the Steelers family who have died in the past year -- Dwight White, Ernie Holmes and Myron Cope. I'm struck as I watch this about how Cope truly is remembered as the guy who invented the Terrible Towel. I guess I'll always think of him as a tremendous writer and tv/radio personality. Certainly one of the greats.
Family members of the Steelers being honored today are on the field with former players L.C. Greenwood, Joe Greene and Mel Blount.
Charlie Daniels, dressed in a Steelers jersey, khakis and white sneakers, did a very nice rendition of the National Anthem. I thought at any moment he'd break into "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" or "The South's Gonna Do It Again" but alas, he didn't. Was a big fan of the band back in the day.
Less than 10 minutes to kickoff.
12:25 p.m. (pregame): We'll be blogging live from today's season opener for the Steelers. Weather's perfect and the teams are out on the field for warmups. Very few people in the seats. Still a lot of tailgaters out in the parking lots, probably talking with our Dan Gigler for a video you can see later tonight on post-gazette.com.
We want your comments as the game progresses. I'll be checking in quite often with some analysis and observations. So if you're watching on TV or listening to Billy Hillgrove on the radio, feel free to join our fray here at Blog 'n' Gold. We'd love to have you.
Usually first games are dominated by defenses, but we'll see what happens. The Steelers offense, if the O-line holds up, could be one that puts a lot of points up. I'm more interested in watching the defense, which I thought was pretty unremarkable this preseason.
Here is the list of inactive players today:
Steelers: WR Limas Sweed; S Anthony Smith; RB Gary Russell; TE Sean McHugh; LB Bruce Davis; OT Tony Hills; DE Orpheus Roye; QB Dennis Dixon, who is listed as the 3rd QB and can play if there are injury problems.
Texans: CB Eugene Wilson; FS Dominique Barber, LB Xavier Adibi; OG Kasey Studdard; OT Rashad Butler; DT Tim Bulman; DE Earl Cochran; DT Frank Okam
That's it for now, more to come.