September 7, 2008
Opening Day Slaughter and LaMarr Woodley’s Coming Out Party
Steelers 38 – Texans 17
The Steelers entered the 2008 season with little to no fanfare from the national media and football pundits as a whole. I’ll always remember how much hype the Cleveland Browns got from the national media entering 2008, because they managed to be less than pathetic the season before when Derek Anderson miraculously led the team to 10 wins. I personally couldn’t comprehend the lack of love shown for the Steelers that offseason and the outpouring of hype that was bestowed upon the Browns.
While they had bowed out early in the playoffs, the Steelers were still the reigning 2007 A.F.C. North Division Champs in a year that was Mike Tomlin’s first as the Head Coach. Plus, they had a healthy Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu coming back, and Santonio Holmes was proving himself to be quite the weapon on Offense. Regardless, the Steelers opened up their eventual 2008 Super Bowl winning season against another team like Cleveland that the media was (and always has been) enamored with: the Houston Texans.
The Texans were by no means a bad team. Their Offense then and to this day is pretty damn good, and back in 2008 they were still led by Western PA’s own Matt Schaub at QB, Owen Daniels at TE, and Andre Johnson at WR. But just like always, their Defense outside of DE Mario Williams was simply atrocious. I mean in 2008 those guys were about as effective at stopping their opposition’s Offense as someone trying to stop Roseanne Barr at a buffet counter. Houston’s lack of talent/effectiveness on Defense didn’t seem to faze the supposed “experts” though. And much like every season, they all made the Texans their “sexy” pick to go to the playoffs in 2008. Heck, even some people were picking Houston to pull the upset shocker in Week 1 against Pittsburgh on the road. Sadly for Houston, they ran into a Black and Gold buzzsaw that day, and a finally healthy Steeler team illustrated how much of a force they were to be reckoned with in the first 60 minutes of the 2008 regular season.
The Texans actually moved the ball well on their first drive of the game. Disaster struck though when Coach Gary Kubiak elected to go for it on 4th and Inches deep in Steeler territory and they were summarily denied. After that debacle, the wheels just simply came off for the Texans, and the Steelers took advantage of the momentum. When they got the ball, the Steeler Offense went right to work doing what they had done the entire 2007 season: feeding Willie Parker the rock.
Parker took quick advantage of the Texans sieve-like run defense and an Offensive Line that was healthy and had all hands on deck. Parker scored the game’s first two TD’s on runs of 7 and 13 yards. When Hines Ward added a 13 yard TD reception from Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers were up 21-0 and the Half Time gun hadn’t even sounded yet. To the Texans credit, Kris Brown at least kicked a 34 yard FG later in the 2nd Quarter to help Houston avoid the shutout. Yet this only seemed to inspire the Steelers to keep their foots on the Texans’ throats, and Pittsburgh came roaring out in the 2nd Half.
The Steelers kept feeding Fast Willie, and he kept producing. Parker scored his third TD of the day on a 4 yard TD run to make the score 28-3 in favor of the Steelers. Then when Hines Ward caught his second TD pass of the game on a 16 yard strike from Big Ben, the Steelers were up 35-3 when the 4th Quarter started. The Texans added 2 garbage time TD’s against the Steelers’ backups on Defense, and Jeff Reed had a FG sandwiched in between during the 4th Quarter to make the game at least a little respectable for the Texans. Thankfully for Houston the game was over and they were sent packing after a humiliating loss by the final score of 38-17.
I’ll never forget watching this game and thinking, “Holy Crap!” The Offense was steam rolling Houston’s weak Defense and the Steeler Defense just kicked the tar out of the star studded Texans Offense. I had pie in the sky dreams that day about that 2008 team’s fortunes, and honestly I’m sure all of you in Steeler Nation did too. Here were some of the outstanding Steeler stats from that game that truly exemplified Pittsburgh’s pure dominance from that Week 1 victory:
Ben Roethlisberger had an almost perfect statistical day and was as efficient as I’ve ever seen him: 13 for 14, 137 yards, and 2TDs, with almost 10 Y.P.A. and no INT’s. The Defense as a whole limited Houston to 234 total yards (most of which were accumulated in the final Quarter when the Steelers went to a soft prevent Defense) and forced 3 turnovers! The three biggest stars of the game were Parker, 2nd year OLB LaMarr Woodley, and future 2008 D.P.O.Y. James Harrison. Parker finished with 25 carries for 138 yards and 3 TDs in a game that he totally dominated, while Woodley had himself a Sack, a Fumble Recovery, and an INT, and Harrison not to be outdone notched himself 3 sacks!
This game was a total ass-whooping from start to finish. I mean, after missing that 4th Down Conversion on their opening drive, Houston looked dazed and in a funk trying to matchup against the future Super Bowl Champions and never got any of the momentum back. Truth be told, they never really got things going in 2008 to warrant those bold predictions made by the media. 2008 was just another year of lofty yet unfulfilled expectations for the Texans that have continued until this season.