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Houston Texans

Practice report: Monday


The Texans used Labor Day to start preparing for their first regular season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team practiced with newly acquired defensive end Stanley McClover and offensive tackle Adam Stenavich.

Working the run game: Now that Ahman Green is healthy and practicing at full speed, the Texans are getting their running game ready to face the Steelers' physical 3-4 defense. Coach Gary Kubiak plans to use a running back-by committee approach with Green starting and Chris Taylor and Steve Slaton coming off the bench.

"They've had good camps," Kubiak said about Taylor and Slaton. "They are the ones that deserve to go get the chance to do it. So we're going to see how they do, but I have a lot of confidence in them."

In fact, Taylor and Slaton could get the bulk of the carries as Kubiak tries to ease Green back into the rotation. The Pro Bowl back pulled his hamstring in the first play of the first preseason and returned to practice the last week of August.

"Twenty-five carries, first game, whew! That's a little tough," Green said about his return. "I mean, eventually, I'll get there. But just from a standpoint of football and endurance and stuff like that, I'm there. I'm definitely ready to start the game and play the game against Pittsburgh, because it's going to be a physical game."

{QUOTE}Under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the Steelers led the league in total defense in 2007 and a linebacker unit led by James Harrison and James Farrior excels at shutting down the run.

Nevertheless, the Texans are counting on their running game to help them manage the clock and pick up first downs.

"We're trying to get better running the football to keep our defense off the field," Kubiak said. "When you play this team, they are as physical as it gets. You have to be willing to have some nasty one and two yard runs in there to keep your third downs manageable. So, (we are) playing a very physical group. They pride themselves on being very physical."

Pressuring Big Ben: If the Steelers have an Achilles' heel, it's their offensive line which lost All-Pro guard Alan Faneca to the New York Jets in free agency. Pittsburgh surrendered 47 sacks last season and did not select an offensive lineman in the early rounds of the 2008 NFL Draft.

It will be crucial for the Texans defense to exploit the Steelers o-line and keep the pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That means Houston will have to find its pass rush outside of defensive end Mario Williams.

"We've been searching for some more pressure for a couple of years," Kubiak said. "Probably a lot of teams in this league are doing the same. We did find some at the end of last year. We know where we are going to get it from one guy (Williams). We're looking for a little help.

"We brought in this (Stanley) McClover kid, we'll see how he fits. But we'll have to play good as a group. This group (Pittsburgh Steelers) that we're playing this week is capable of lining up and running it right down your throat and not having to throw it very much, so we're facing a different type of task right there."

Last season, Roethlisberger threw 32 touchdowns. Giving him time in the pocket would leave Houston's cornerbacks on an island, which isn't where they want to be at Heinz Field.

New additions: Defensive end Stanley McClover signed with the Texans on Sunday. The Auburn product was a seventh-round pick in 2006 and released by the Carolina Panthers in the final round of cuts. McClover played in 11 games last season and finished with eight tackles.

Offensive tackle Adam Stenavich signed with the practice squad on Monday. Stenavich was released by the Dallas Cowboys in their final round of cuts and spent time on the practice squad with Green Bay in 2006.

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