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Texans fall to Steelers 38-17

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PITTSBURGH - The Texans never got on track Sunday in a regular season opener that quickly got out of hand at Heinz Field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers used their bread-and-butter run game to dictate the tempo en route to a 38-17 win over the Texans.

It wasn't the start to the season that Houston hoped for on either side of the ball. The defense was worn down by the Steelers' run game that totaled 183 net yards and three touchdowns by running back Willie Parker.

"They're a ball control team," coach Gary Kubiak said. "If they're able to do that - they were five-for-five in the red zone - nothing good's going to happen for your football team."

Meanwhile, the Texans' offense never found its rhythm as quarterback Matt Schaub was sacked five times, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Despite the constant pressure, he managed to complete 25-of-33 passes for 202 yards with a 14-yard passing touchdown to Kevin Walter and a four-yard touchdown run – both in the fourth quarter.

"I am extremely disappointed in myself, my performance, our team's performance, because we were ready for this game," Schaub said. "We're capable of a whole lot more and we just didn't execute to the best of our ability. We expect a lot out of ourselves and we weren't even close to that."

Among the highlights for Houston was the performance of defensive end Mario Williams, who contributed to the Texans' lone field goal by sacking Ben Roethlisberger and forcing a fumble that was returned into Pittsburgh territory. The third-year pro finished with six tackles and two sacks.

In his first extended action since last season, wide receiver Andre Johnson contributed a game-high 10 catches for 112 yards (11.2 avg.). His 14-yard catch on the game's opening drive set up a crucial fourth down conversion that sapped Houston's early momentum and changed the complexion of the game. Schaub was stopped on a short dive on fourth-and-one at the Pittsburgh 48, and Kubiak's challenge was overruled.

"The thing I was disappointed in is the referee signaled first down twice and then the guy on the side came in and spotted the ball," Kubiak said. "So that was my biggest fuss. I just told him, I asked Larry, I said, 'Larry, you signaled first down. So what happened between that and spotting the ball?' But basically, if they spot it and it's not good enough, that's the way it goes."

"I thought I got the first down," Schaub said. "I got a pretty good push in there behind my guys. I think I had plenty yards for the first down, you know, got enough.

{QUOTE}"We had something going there on that first series. We were moving the football and get the ball right there at midfield and I think if we get that we get a fresh set of downs and who knows what would've happened. We could've set the tone for the football game by either getting seven or three out of that first drive, but you can't just go back and say that play turned the tables."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger proceeded to gain 17 yards on third-and-four at the Houston 46, and Parker's seven-yard touchdown run put Pittsburgh ahead 7-0 after Jeff Reed's extra point.

The Texans responded thanks to running back Steve Slaton's eight-yard rush and Johnson's 24-yard grab to the Pittsburgh 42. But sacks on two of the next three plays forced the Texans to punt from their 43-yard line.

On the Steelers' first play from scrimmage, Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Hines Ward on a play-action pass for 74 yards, but Ward was flagged for offensive pass interference on linebacker DeMeco Ryans. Four plays later, Ward gained 29 yards on a reception all the way to the Houston 34. Cornerback Fred Bennett forced a fumble on Holmes' 10-yard catch to the 11-yard line, but the ball fell forward out of bounds. Parker capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run with 11:03 left in the first half.

Pittsburgh's offense returned to the field momentarily after Schaub's third down pass intended for wide receiver David Anderson was picked off by linebacker LeMarr Woodley, who returned the pick six yards to the Texans' 32-yard line. A face mask penalty on defensive tackle Travis Johnson gave the Steelers a first down, and Roethlisberger capitalized with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Ward.

The Steelers' defense continued its momentum when safety Troy Polamalu intercepted Schaub's pass intended for Johnson at the Houston 32. But on Pittsburgh's first play of the ensuing series, Williams sacked Roethlisberger to force a fumble that Ryans recovered and returned 41 yards to the Pittsburgh 26. A face mask penalty on Parker gave the Texans a first down at the 13-yard line. Kris Brown's 34-yard field goal cut the Steelers' lead to 21-3 with 4:34 left in the first half.

On the following drive, Williams sacked Roethlisberger for a 12-yard loss to force the Steelers' first punt of the game. But the Texans couldn't get their two-minute offense going and punted after Schaub's third-down pass to Anderson was batted down.

Pittsburgh opened the second half with nine consecutive rushing plays for 50 yards. Parker's four-yard touchdown run put the Steelers ahead 28-3 after Reed's extra point.

After a Houston punt, the Steelers' run game reloaded. Parker's 32-yard run off the right tackle gave Pittsburgh a first down inside Houston territory, and Ward's 16-yard touchdown grab helped make the score 35-3 with 2:10 left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, a 19-yard pass interference penalty on Steelers safety Ryan Clark gave Houston a first down at the Steelers' five-yard line. But a 10-yard tripping penalty on rookie left tackle Duane Brown moved back the Texans the following play. On third-and-goal from the 14-yard line, Schaub hit Walter in the back of the end zone to help cut the Texans' deficit to 35-10 with 9:00 remaining in the game.

The Texans committed their third turnover when Schaub was sacked by linebacker James Harrison and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Woodley at the Houston 30. Four plays later, Reed converted a 44-yard field goal.

With 2:35 left in the game, tight end Owen Daniels jumped for an acrobatic 14-yard catch to the Pittsburgh 32. Johnson's 15- and 11-yard catches on consecutive snaps set up Schaub's four-yard touchdown run on a bootleg off the right end. Brown's extra point made the score 38-17 with 1:14 on the game clock.

Injury report

  • Defensive end Stanley McClover left the game in the second half with an injury to his right knee. He did not return.
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