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Old 09-07-2008, 04:10 AM   #1
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Default Opener might not be fun for everyone

Opener might not be fun for everyone (read: Duane Brown)
Sunday, September 07, 2008
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

You'd imagine it required something like 2.1 seconds this week for Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff to identify the MTT, the Most Troublesome Texan, 2.1 seconds being amazingly similar to the amount of time necessary for Mario Williams to arrive at Ben Roethlisberger's musculature if certain precautions are not faithfully exercised.

"Somebody," Tomlin said at the first availability of Week 1, "better block this guy."

Somebody, anybody.

Houston's 6-7, 290 pound defensive end working against an offensive line that allowed 47 sacks a year ago -- that's with Alan Faneca -- is Game 1's principal worry from the Steelers' standpoint, but there are others as well, including the fact that these Texans, during last year's highly progressive 8-8 autumn, broke four kickoff returns for touchdowns, just the fourth team to do that in the past 40 years.

There's also this little statistical carbuncle regarding Houston quarterback Matt Schaub, which you'll find under yards per attempt -- a critical ratio, according to ESPN analyst Merril Hoge (so you know it's right).

Or was it Meryl Streep?

The big hitters
Two of the top sack masters of 2007 will be on display this afternoon in Houston's Mario Williams and the Steelers' James Harrison. Last season's NFL leaders:
Player, team No.
1. Allen, Chiefs 15 1/2
2. Kerney, Seahawks 14 1/2
3. Ware, Cowboys 14.0
3. Williams, Texans 14.0
5. Umenyiora, Giants 13.0
Note: Harrison was 22nd with 8 1/2 sacks.
In either case, every NFL quarterback with a higher yards-per-attempt figure than Schaub last year was a star in this league: Tom Brady (8.31), Tony Romo (8.1), Peyton Manning (7.84), Ben Roethlisberger (7.8), Brett Favre (7.77), then Schaub (7.75), all of which might indicate that Schaub is seriously underrated.

But when you survey the various personnel sets and subsets scheduled to bang into each other for three hours beginning at 1 o'clock, none appears to be a more dramatic mismatch than the various methods Houston must manufacture just to deal with James Harrison, the undersized Steelers linebacker who barged into the Pro Bowl last year essentially by being extremely hard to deal with.

"It's just as special as the next 15, you treat each of them like they're very important," said Harrison when invited to pump up the opener.

"It's not game time yet," he said when invited to characterize the excitement. "If it was, you wouldn't be in the locker room."

You wouldn't imagine Duane Brown had a lot to say in Texas this week either, because Duane Brown today gets to play his first ever NFL game, a special occasion with one potentially serious downside: as the starting left tackle, his charge is principally to keep James Harrison out of the way. Brown, the 26th player taken in the April draft, is 6-4 and 318, not so much a typically monstrous LT as a more athletic type, a former tight end and basketball player.

At least he knows how to take a charge.

Brown will ostensibly get help on Harrison from tight ends Owen Daniels and Mark Bruener, the former Steeler and the bigger of the two, and likely from a running back as well. It won't likely be as much help as he'd like, especially with Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel in front of him too.

"The speed of their defensive line and their outside linebackers, with the schemes they run, it can be very, very challenging," Bruener said after practice Thursday. "[Plus] you just can't hear anything. You can be two feet from one of your teammates and you just flat out cannot hear anything. They really have something special with regard to the way their fans support the organization."

If, like most freight trains, Harrison had a blaring air horn for a whistle, you could at least hear him going by, and as we've come to see with James, the match-up doesn't much matter.

Last Nov. 5, Harrison went mostly head-to-head with an offensive tackle to whom he gave away nine inches, 103 pounds, and 10 Pro Bowls, a Mr. Jonathan Ogden. Harrison made nine tackles, eight of them solo, had three sacks for 25 yards in losses, forced three fumbles, recovered a fumble, and intercepted a pass. If there were one 60-minute window in which Harrison became the Steelers Most Valuable Player for 2007, I'm guessing that was it.

"They have so many things they can do," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said this week. "The job Dick [LeBeau] does with the defense is second-to-none in the game of football. So you have many, many challenges mentally as the Pittsburgh Steelers are always going to to be as physical a football team as you are ever going to face."

Most essentially, if they don't get something done with No. 92, there will be a very long plane ride into the sunset.
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Old 09-07-2008, 04:53 AM   #2
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Default Re: Opener might not be fun for everyone


no, seriously, our Pro Bowl left tackle -- one of the few guys on our offensive line who most people agree is good -- is going to get manhandled by a tall dude with a high center of gravity? THAT'S our biggest worry? We'll do fine.
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Old 09-07-2008, 07:27 AM   #3
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Default Re: Opener might not be fun for everyone

I guess this is it. With all the rantings and ravings about O-line concerns vs. "we'll be fine" perhaps today is judgment day. I am concerned, but hopefully starting today, when it counts, they will bring it. I guess we'll see.....
If I could be like that,
what would I do,
What would I do..."

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Old 09-07-2008, 07:38 AM   #4
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Default Re: Opener might not be fun for everyone

I guess we will see what our line is made of today hopefully we can slow down Mario Williams and bring our sack total down from last year.
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Old 09-07-2008, 10:54 AM   #5
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Default Re: Opener might not be fun for everyone

Keeping Mario Williams in check will be difficult. The Steelers secondary should have their hands full also.
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Old 09-07-2008, 11:04 AM   #6
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Default Re: Opener might not be fun for everyone

and on the other side of the texans line they gave their RT a new deal (yesterday) worth 5 yrs and 30 mil to try and stop woodley.
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Old 09-07-2008, 11:27 AM   #7
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Default Re: Opener might not be fun for everyone

Houston better strap em' tight!
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