Contrast was the big word around Reliant Park all week leading up to the Texans preseason game at Pittsburgh.
There was the contrast between the two teams in the Texans' 24-6 win in Pittsburgh back in 2002 – a game where Houston totaled an NFL-low 47 yards of offense.
Then there was contrast Saturday night.
Houston lost to the Steelers 38-3. While it is just the preseason, head coach Dom Capers is no less frustrated with his team's performance. He talked about the defeat Sunday afternoon, pointing out negatives in a defense that gave up 427 yards and an offense that had trouble establishing the run.
The Steelers jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead before the Texans got a first down.
"I think probably the best thing that happened to us on defense was that we got exposed to some things," Capers said. "Now they've got something to draw from. One of the things that you forget, especially when you're putting young guys out there, they don't have the background to draw from that other guys do.
"It started with their ability to run the football and control the down and distance situations."
The Steelers faced 13 third downs with less than six-yards to go. In contrast, the Texans converted just eight of 26 third downs (none with more than seven yards to go).
But there were bright spots.
Wide receiver J.J. Moses returned a kick off 55-yards and led another good night for the special teams unit. The Texans also put together some good plays on offense, with starting quarterback David Carr hooking up with wide receiver Andre Johnson four times for 58 yards.
One slant patter went for 26 yards.
"They were just playing us man-to-man and we felt like we could get open on those guys," Johnson said. "David made some good throws and we were able to make some plays."
Rookie wide receiver Kendrick Starling was the team's leading rusher, taking a reverse 28 yards. He also caught two passes for 10 yards.
"You saw his speed show up there," Capers said. "We'll probably work him a little bit at kick off returns to see how he does there."
Starling is just one receiver trying to make a squad that is very deep at the position. He will get more chances on special teams during the team's third preseason game Friday night at Denver.
"One of the priorities with receivers is this week and next week are going to be very critical as far as special teams play is concerned," Capers said. "You can't carry a guy that's going to play five or six plays and no special teams."
Capers was upset with the performance and expected a strong showing given the team's 18-0 shutout of the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason opener. But he is not resting on the fact that it is "just a preseason game."
The team will resume a normal game week in preparing for the Broncos.
"We've got to respond to it and we have to learn from it and make sure we go to Denver and play an awful lot better," he said.
Running back Tony Hollings was hit hard by two Pittsburgh defenders toward the end of the third quarter. Capers said X-rays were negative and Hollings will be limited to start the week.