Ketchup Was Everywhere

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August 22, 2004
Ketchup Was Everywhere

by Keith Weiland

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Following a big shutout win in their first preseason game a week ago, the Texans failed once again to not only win twice in a row, but they did so (once again) in disasterous fashion. Ineffective on both sides of the football, the Steelers scored early and often to run away with a 38-3 victory, evening the Texans’ preseason record to 1-1.

The Steelers were led by a potent running attack which saw them rack up 205 yards of offense on the Heinz Field turf. The Texans, meanwhile, were on the opposite end of the spectrum, rushing for only 54 yards in the game.

Scoring started when Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox found Hines Ward in the endzone for a 4-yard completion. Earlier in the drive, Maddox hooked up with Ward for a 26-yard gain that drove Pittsburgh down to the Texans’ 9-yard line.

The Steelers pushed the lead to 14-0 when RB Jerome Bettis, on his fourth consecutive carry, plowed across the goalline for a one-yard gain and the score. Bettis proved difficult to bring down the entire night, averaging 4.8 yards per carry against the Texans’ first-team defense.

David Carr rallied the Texans on the ensuing drive, completing 5 of his 8 passes to move the offense 78 yards in 13 plays. The drive stalled following an incomplete pass to WR Corey Bradford in the endzone, and the Texans settled for a 23-yard field goal from Kris Brown to make the score 14-3 in the second quarter.

The Texans would get no closer though as they allowed the Steelers to score on their next possession. Rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger, feeling no pressure from a Texans pass rush, bargained for time and found WR Antwaan Randle El for a 38-yard gain into the red zone. The completion led to a 2-yard run by RB Verron Haynes, stretching the Steeler lead to 21-3.

Pittsburgh kicked a field goal as the first half expired to make the score 24-3. In the second half, the Texans yielded another pair of rushing touchdowns to Steeler running backs, leaving Pittsburgh with a thorough 35-point thrashing.

Next up, the Texans travel to Denver to face the Broncos. The starters are expected to see their most extensive action of the preseason, as they will likely play into the third quarter.

What Went Right?

Andre Johnson On the Texans’ only scoring drive of the game, it hardly seems coincidental that the offense found a way to put the ball in Andre Johnson’s hands three times. His first catch may have only gone for five yards, but thanks to his ability to stretch out a short pass, it set up a more dangerous third-and-five situation, one that led to a spectacular catch and run by Johnson for a 26-yard gain. His third reception went for 17 yards and put the team into the red zone.

David Carr While the quarterback touches the ball more than anyone on the field, it’s hard to pin any of the game’s troubles on David Carr. Continuing his accurate passing of a week ago, Carr completed seven of his ten passes against the Steelers for 67 yards. Looking poised under pressure, Carr avoided sacks and was careful with the football. Quick stat – Carr has completed 79 percent of his preseason passes.

The Return of Moses For anyone considering a jump onto the Vontez Duff bandwagon following the Dallas game, J.J. Moses reminded those of you to keep their feet just a little bit longer. Moses opened the second half with an electrifying 55-yard kickoff return, one that set the Texans up at the Steelers’ 40-yard line for their best starting field position of the night. As for Duff, he hesitated and gained zero yards on his kickoff return following the Steelers’ second touchdown of the game, pinning the offense inside their own 20-yard line. Advantage: Moses.

What Went Wrong?

Linebackers’ Run Defense The Steelers’ running backs had their way with the Texans’ front seven all night, gaining a total of 205 yards on the ground. While there was plenty of blame to go around, the Steelers took advantage of the linebackers’ over-pursuit early and often. This was particularly evident at right outside linebacker (Antwan Peek and Charlie Anderson), though just about every linebacker on the field was guilty at some point. The experiment of having Peek and Kailee Wong on the field together needs some more work, though when Jay Foreman finally saw some playing time, he wasn’t that much more effective, either.

Rushing Offense Both the offensive line and the running backs were accountable for a game in which the offense only gained 54 yards on the ground. Take away Kendrick Starling’s 28-yard run on a reverse and that total drops to a paltry 26 yards. Yikes! Tony Hollings had little room to run, and when he did, he looked tentative, netting just 9 yards on his 14 attempts.

Todd Wade This is a little unfair to single out Wade on what was a poor night from just about everyone on the offensive line, but he had perhaps his worst showing of his entire summer trying to run block against the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme. Following his foul start penalty in the first quarter, he let Pittsburgh defensive lineman Aaron Smith beat him with a little speed inside to make a tackle on Hollings running the other direction, away from Wade.

Key Play Of The Game

When a team loses 38-3, there really isn’t a key play. There was a point, however, early in the second quarter when the Steeler lead was only eleven following the field goal by kicker Kris Brown.

On the Steelers’ next possession, with most of their starters already on the sideline (including QB Tommy Maddox), the Texans still had many of their first-team defenders on the field. Twice on the drive, the Texans were penalized for illegal contact five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, keeping the defense on its heels.

But at 2nd and eight from close to mid-field, rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger had plenty of time to wait for WR Antwaan Randle El to lose SS Eric Brown in coverage, catch his own deflected pass, and collect a 38-yard gain that set the Steelers up deep in Texans’ territory at the 8-yard line. The Steelers would go on to score a touchdown, lengthening the lead to 21-3, never looking back.

Preseason Week 2 Antwaan Randle El catches his own tipped pass for a completion. Final Score Houston Texans 3 Pittsburgh Steelers 38 Lookin’ Good

Kendrick Starling
The undrafted free agent receiver showed off his ability to create yards with the ball in his hands when he scampered for 28 yards on a reverse. Starling is on the bubble for one of the final spots on the 53-man roster, and that type of game-breaking ability may make him too tough to let go when the Turk comes calling in two weeks.

Oh, my eyes!

Tony Hollings
It was tough all around for Hollings in Pittsburgh. After failing to even average a yard per rush, QB Dave Ragone made him a sitting duck on a meaningless dump-off pass in which Hollings was sandwiched by a pair of Steeler defenders. Hollings was slow to get up, leaving the game afterwards due to sore ribs.

2004 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.14 Dallas 18-0 08.21 at Pittsburgh 3-38 08.27 at Denver 17-31 09.02 Tampa Bay 9-17 Regular Season 09.12 San Diego 20-27 09.19 at Detroit 16-28 09.26 at Kansas City 24-21 10.03 Oakland 30-17 10.10 Minnesota 28-34 10.17 at Tennessee 20-10 10.24 BYE — 10.31 Jacksonville 20-6 11.07 at Denver 13-31 11.14 at Indianapolis 14-49 11.21 Green Bay 13-16 11.28 Tennessee 31-21 12.05 at New York Jets 7-29 12.12 Indianapolis 14-23 12.19 at Chicago 24-5 12.26 at Jacksonville 21-0 01.02 Cleveland 14-22   Overall Record 7-9