And so It begins.
For the first time since the fall of 2005, the Steelers will engage in meaningful football again, in a season that counts. Huh? Think about it. The 2006 Steelers never had the potential for a back-to-back championship run. The Patriots didn't even do that in 2003. That team had let down season written all over it, then Big Ben did his best Steve-O impersonation into an old lady's windshield, and that season was doomed from jump street. Throw in the fact that Bill Cowher was mailing it in, and the team was lucky to get to 8-8. Besides, did it even really bother you? You were still basking in Super Bowl XL afterglow.
Then, last year, the Steelers hire a rookie head coach, and a brand new staff is put in place. The team makes improvement, ups the record to 10-6 and gets back into the playoffs. But c'mon -- you knew they weren't going to the Super Bowl with a new coach, and besides it was New England's to lose last year, which they did (karma is wonderful).
So that brings us to today: the Steelers have the offensive weaponry and defensive bona fides to make this season very interesting in a year where there is no clear-cut favorite in either league to take the prize. It starts in about two hours.
Some quick things about today:
- Though garnering less attention than the media darling Cleveland Browns, the Texans are widely regarded as a team on the rise this season thanks to an impressive defense led by "Meast" (man beast) Mario Williams. Charlie Casserly looks like an absolute genius for picking him over Reggie Bush and Vince Young. However, by virtue of the fact that Jax and Indy are in their division, Houston will have an uphill climb to make it to the postseason. This is a terrific first test for the Steelers, who contrarily many think could drop off this season by virtue of a murderer's row schedule and major question marks on both interior lines.
- Houston dealt the Steelers perhaps the most embarrassing home loss in the team's history at Heinz Field. A 2002 debacle in which the Steelers produced over 400 yards of total offense and held the Texans to only 46 -- FORTY SIX! -- yards of total offense, yet lost 24-6 because of not one, not two, but THREE Tommy Maddox turnovers returned for touchdowns (2 INTs, one fumble). It was the single worst football game BNG has ever personally witnessed.
- The Texans picked one slot ahead of the Steelers in the 2004 NFL Draft, selecting highly regarded cornerback Dunta Robinson with the 10th overall pick. They rebuffed a trade offer from Buffalo to pick in that slot; Buffalo was hot after a quarterback, but the Steelers got to him first: kid by the name of Roethlisberger.
- Houston's gifts to the world include smog, traffic, obesity, corporate corruption, war profiteering, windfall oil profits, and Tila Tequila. If that isn't reason enough to dislike their football team, I don't know what is.
- The Texans have the worst name in all of sports. Houston Texans. Wow, that's clever. How about the Baltimore Marylanders for a team name? Maybe the Pittsburgh Pennsylvanians?
- Their logo is also stupid.
That's it for now ... stay tuned -- PG Sports Editor Jerry Micco will take over shortly and live blog today's game!