Practice report: Texans sign Wilson

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The Texans settled into their regular-season schedule on Wednesday, talking to the media during open locker room in the morning and practicing in the afternoon. Working out as a Texan for the first time was cornerback Eugene Wilson. Offensive tackles Ephraim Salaam and Rashad Butler returned to the field and are expected to be healthy enough to play on Sunday. The only Texan missing practice was linebacker Xavier Adibi, who is battling an Achilles injury.

Wilson added to roster: The Texans signed cornerback Eugene Wilson to a one-year contract on Wednesday to add depth to the secondary. Wilson, 28, had 55 career starts and won two Super Bowl rings in five seasons with New England. The sixth-year veteran left the Patriots as a free agent and signed with the Buccaneers in the offseason, but he was waived in the final round of cuts.
Wilson has played several positions in the defensive backfield, and the Texans plan to keep him at cornerback.

"We've been looking for a guy that's played some nickel to add as a fifth DB," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "We had a couple of options. (General manager) Rick (Smith) had his eye on him. I played against him - I coached against him. Very smart player. So, we just felt we needed to add that depth right now and the fact that he can play nickel helped."

{QUOTE}The Texans kept only four cornerbacks on their roster after trimming it down to 53 players. They waived offensive tackle Brandon Frye, a fifth-round pick in 2007, to make room for Wilson.

Kubiak laughs off Bell rumors: It was reported in The Detroit News that former Detroit Lions running back Tatum Bell had flown to Houston to try out with the Texans. Bell is connected to the Texans because he played under Kubiak in Denver, but the coach confirmed that the running back had not worked out with the Texans.

"You know, that's news to me to be honest with you," Kubiak joked. "I saw before I came over to practice on TV that we were working him out. So, I guess I need to go check with somebody.

"I know Tatum. I had him in Denver, but other than that, I know nothing about a workout."

Run defense a top concern: When asked what concerns him most about facing Pittsburgh, Kubiak didn't hesitate to say the Texans' run defense.

"This team's (Pittsburgh) strength is holding the ball, running the ball, controling the football game, time of possession," Kubiak said. "I think they are top of the league, if not top-two or -three in the league. That has been one of our problems and that's what this team does best, so we're going to have to stop the run or this team can control the game on you. I think that's our number one challenge."

The Texans ranked 19th against the run last season, allowing 114.1 yards a game. Pittsburgh's run offense was third in the league and back Willie Parker ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,316 rushing yards.

"Parker is a great back, 1,300 yards and he missed two games," defensive end N.D. Kalu said. "Watching him on film, I remember I was telling (Anthony) Weaver, I didn't know he was that good last year because I didn't get a chance to see a lot of their games. But you're not concerned. You're just up for the challenge."

To read more about the run defense, click here.

Brown stepping up: Rookie left tackle Duane Brown knows he has no choice but step up his game and protect quarterback Matt Schaub's blindside against Pittsburgh. The Steelers had the top defense in the league last year and their front seven is littered with Pro Bowlers like mammoth nose tackle Casey Hampton, defensive end Aaron Smith and outside linebacker James Harrison.

It helps that Brown went against a tough 3-4 defense at Dallas and has been spending extra time in the film room studying defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's schemes.

"Every day, I'm getting a little bit more comfortable, but it's like I said: This is the week it starts to matter," Brown said. "Preseason is over. It's a different speed that we're going to be going against this week.

"You have to get as many looks as you can at different options that they've faced. Like I said, the Dallas week really helped us out a lot going against the 3-4, great players and great speed. It all comes back to film study with me being a person who hasn't gone against this team before."

Brown did get a vote of confidence from the head coach.

"He's our best guy (at left tackle)," Kubiak said. "He's been exceptional throughout the camp. Is he in for some growing pains? I bet he is, but he's fixing to find out. Like I told him, it's going to be a little bit louder than it was in the preseason and a little bit tougher, but he's been a rock. He works, does his job. He's gotten better every week. This will be the ultimate challenge for him. He's got to go through these things to become a big-time player."

Slaton, Green to carry the load: Ahman Green will start against the Steelers, but the Texans plan to ease him into the running back rotation in his first game back since pulling his hamstring in the preseason. That means rookie Steve Slaton will be called upon to carry a heavy load on Sunday. Heinz Field will offer a steep learning curve to Slaton, but Kubiak thinks the running back has the chance to develop into something special.

"Eventually, this kid has a chance to be a heck of a player," Kubiak said. "How quick he gets to that point this year may have a lot to do with how far we go. But we're going to count on him. He'll get a bulk of work along with (RB) Ahman (Green) right now. We'll see where he's at, but this football team is counting on him growing up pretty quick."

Slaton said he isn't nervous about taking regular-season hits and he knows he will have to put up big blocks in pass protection.

"Protect the quarterback, that's the biggest thing and protect the ball," Slaton said. "Those are the first things that I want to accomplish."

Captains named: The players voted on the captains for this week's game. On offense, the captains are Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. On defense, Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans were selected. Kris Brown will represent the special teams.

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