2002 Record: (7-4-1) 12.08.02 | 12pm
December 5, 2002
Texans Visit an Old Houston Nemesis
by Jimmy Mohr
The Texans travel to Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh this Sunday to battle the once-hated Steelers. The Texans may be a new team to Houston, but most fans will remember the rivalry between the Oilers and Steelers. The Steelers tarnished the "Luv Ya Blue" era by defeating the Oilers in the AFC Championship games of ’78 and ’79; the closest Houston ever came to a Super Bowl while still residing in the Bayou City. A win in either of those games probably would have kept Bum Phillips around as coach well into the 80’s. Maybe Earl would have retired in Columbia Blue, who knows? Regardless, the bitterness towards the Steelers still remains to this day. I hate the Steelers.
The Steelers’ record stands at 7-4-1, good enough for a game and a half lead over the Ravens and Browns in the AFC North. The Steelers have won six of their last eight games, including a tie, and are 3-1-1 at home this season.
The Steelers defense is not what it once was, but it has been good enough to win games. The defense is ranked 17th overall but is particularly tough on the run, ranking 4th in the league. Linebacker Joey Porter has had a spectacular season leading the team in tackles, sacks and interceptions.
On offense, starting quarterback Tommy Maddox returns to the starting lineup this week after missing the last two games with a concussion and spinal injury. Maddox has resurrected his NFL career by throwing 16 touchdowns in 10 games and completing over 60% of his pass attempts. He has accomplished this with a makeshift running attack consisting of Amos Zereoue and hobbled veteran Jerome Bettis. Bettis has missed two games this season and has spent most of his time nursing a bad knee.
What to say about the Texans? Last week they looked pathetic on offense and great on defense. The defense held the Colts to 278 total yards, well below their average of 345. The offense on the other hand, seems to have little fire or discipline. Countless false starts and holding penalties marred the Colts game. Coach Dom Capers even went as far as benching RB Jonathan Wells after he fumbled on his 3rd carry of the game. What about benching Fred Weary or Chester Pitts for committing drive killing penalties? The bottom line is the Texans offense is the worst in the league and won’t improve until this off-season
When the Texans have the ball…
The offense was horrific in Indianapolis last week; the Texans gained 165 total net yards for an average gain of 2.7 per play. The Steelers’ 17th ranked defense is not as stout as the Colts, at least on paper, but the Texan offense is so pathetic that the U of H defense could stop them. Pittsburgh is 4th against the run, 27th against the pass and average nearly 3 sacks per game. The Texans will have to move the ball through the air to win this football game because the running game is hopeless. The weather in Pittsburgh will more than likely complicate matters: the forecast as of Thursday called for cloudy skies and a high of 31 degrees with possible snow. The Steelers will blitz often since the Texans have yet to prove themselves worthy of defending it; look for Steeler LB Joey Porter to be all over the place.
When the Steelers have the ball…
In a normal year, the offense would revolve around RB Jerome Bettis. But Bettis has been nursing a bad knee this season and has only rushed for 497 yards in 10 games. The bulk of the offense has come from the arm of retread QB Tommy Maddox of XFL fame. He has missed the last two games with a concussion and spinal issues making way for Kordell Stewart to retake the starting job temporarily. Maddox will make his return this week and it may take his a quarter or two to get in a rhythm. Look for WR’s Burres and Ward to carry the load.
1. Enter the elusive Red Zone
The Texans penetrated the red zone only once against the Colts that resulted in three points. Penalties have proven to be a backbreaker for many of the Texan drives — the OL is making too many mental errors this far into the season. This game will be the Texans first experience in the cold weather this season; it could cause the offense to hit rock bottom.
2. Eliminate costly turnovers
The Texans have suddenly found themselves with a disease some call fumblitis. Wells and Jermaine Lewis have ended up on the bench in recent weeks because of it. The Texans have to be in the plus column on turnovers to win, end of story. There is no margin for error this week; David Carr has to continue to keep the ball away from opposing defenders and ball carriers have to hold the ball like it’s a donated organ for one of their kids.
3. Win the TOP battle
The Texans’ defense deserves combat pay for their work against the Colts. Three and out seems to be the Texans’ fight song on offense. Punter Chad Stanley had to have a hamstring transplant during the bye week so he could continue to punt 20 times a game. Nothing seems to be going right for the offense, so here’s a suggestion: put Gary Walker in the backfield and tell him the Steelers said something about his mom — guaranteed TOP advantage.
Hines Ward/Plaxico Burress vs. Glenn/Coleman
Ward and Burress have combined for 147 catches totaling 2,033 yards this season. The challenge this week is to concentrate on two receivers rather than just one (last week was the Colts’ Marvin Harrison). The Texans are 6th in the league against the pass which hopefully stands true this Sunday. If the Texans force the Steelers into running the ball, the game can be won.
HoustonProFootball.com’s hard working… working staff weigh in with their predictions for this week’s game.
Bob: Maddox won’t play that great but then neither will Kris Brown. Steelers 21, Texans 7
Dave: Banged up Steelers not banged up enough. Steelers 13 Texans 10
Jimmy: I hate the Steelers but I’m not a stupid man. Steelers 24, Texans 10
Keith: Texans unable to play ‘ketchup’ at Heinz Field. Steelers 20, Texans 10
Ric: I have a feeling this one’s gonna get ugly. Steelers 31, Texans 3
Warren: Kris Brown hopes to redeem himself in his personal House of Pain. Steelers 28, Texans 17
2002 Regular Season Records
Bob 8-4; Dave 5-7; Jimmy 6-6; Keith 9-3;
Ric 9-3; Warren 6-6
TEXANS PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 329 178 2037 9/11 TEAM 331 180 2081 11/11 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Wells 145 435 3.0 2 TEAM 328 1120 3.4 5 REC NO YDS AVG TD Bradford 35 608 17.4 6 TEAM 180 2081 11.6 11 STEELERS PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/INT Maddox 234 174 1872 16/11 TEAM 405 260 3057 22/17 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Zereoue 137 528 3.8 2 TEAM 371 1594 4.3 11 REC NO YDS AVG TD Ward 89 1090 12.2 11 TEAM 260 3057 11.8 22 PRESEASON 8.05 GIANTS 17-34 8.10 @ Saints 13-10 8.17 @Chiefs 9-19 8.24 DOLPHINS 3-24 8.30 BUCCANEERS 13-17 REGULAR SEASON 9.08 COWBOYS 19-10 9.15 @ Chargers 3-24 9.22
3-23 9.29 @ Eagles 17-35 10.06 OPEN 10.13 BILLS 24-31 10.20 @ Browns 17-34 10.27 @ Jaguars 21-19 11.03 BENGALS 3-38 11.10 @ Titans 10-17 11.17 JAGUARS 21-24 11.24 GIANTS 16-14 12.01 @ Colts 3-19 12.08 @ Steelers 24-6 12.15 RAVENS 19-23 12.22 @ Redskins 10-26 12.29 TITANS 3-13 OVERALL 4-12 click on a team to read the GameDay Preview; click on the score to read the GameDay Review