Notebook: Erased from memory banks

PITTSBURGH – Tommy Maddox had one of his worst games the last time the Steelers played the Houston Texans, but earlier this week said he was just glad to walk off the field after missing two games with a neck injury.

Most of the Steelers don't have such fond memories of a 24-6 loss in which they outgained the Texans, 422-47:

• "I don't even remember it," said Alan Faneca.

• "Coach (Dick) Hoak said we should've just lined up and punted on first down and we probably would've won the game," said Dan Kreider. "It was one of those games where you're just dumbfounded afterwards. I remember thinking, I've seen it all."

• "We beat the crap out of them but turned the ball over too many times," said Hines Ward.

• "You were sick," said Jerome Bettis. "It was disbelief. You couldn't believe it was actually happening."

• "We had one of the best defensive outings in the history of the NFL and lost," said Chris Hope. "You can't explain that."

Will there be any carryover?

"No," Bettis said. "That's too many years ago. I don't even know what year that was. Very rarely do you have those kinds of games, and if you do it's the year after, not three or four years later. That's the kind of game you wash out your mind anyway."

TEXANS' RISING STARS

The Texans have two of the best young pass-game players in the NFL on both sides of the ball.

Defensively, the Texans count on Dunta Robinson to shut down their best opponent. As a rookie last year, the 5-foot-10, 173-pound Robinson had 85 tackles, three sacks, six interceptions, 19 passes defensed and forced three fumbles. He'll spend much of today locked up with Hines Ward.

"I remember him when he was in high school," Ward said. "He grew up in Athens Georgia. I read about him a couple of times, so I'm looking forward to it."

On offense, the Texans' deep threat is 6-2, 221-pound Andre Johnson, who made the Pro Bowl last season with 79 catches for 1,142 yards. He'll test new Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor (6-1, 191). Both are third-year players.

"Coach (Bill Cowher) said when they went over to the Pro Bowl he was an amazing receiver," said Taylor. "I guess he was making a whole lot of plays in practice. Coach said he's no slouch, and you could see on tape he's no slouch at all. He's really a big-time receiver in this league."

BRUENER NOT WASHED UP

Mark Bruener was the Steelers' tight end from 1995 to 2002 before injuries forced him to take a role as a back-up in 2003. He left for Houston as a free agent prior to the 2004 season and has made 12 starts since. He's considered the best blocker of the Texans' front six and last week his 19-yard catch was the Texans' longest reception of the game.

"He's obviously still a good tight end. He's a great competitor and a great athlete and has always been a great blocker," said Steelers tight end Jerame Tuman.

"You'd never meet Mark outside of the football field and think he played football. He's the nicest guy. He's great with his kids, a great husband, about as perfect as you can get in a guy. And then when you get on the football field he's completely different. I remember when he and (Rob) Burnett used to go at it. He'd get his helmet torn off, be black and blue all over the face. If he'd get upset, he'd get fired up."

PRACTICE SQUAD BLUES

Nate Washington was re-signed to the practice squad, but he disagreed with a report that the Steelers called one minute after the 4 o'clock deadline.

"My phone rang at 3:59," he said. "I knew it was going to be Kevin Colbert. I was kind of expecting that to happen. He told me to come over and sign my papers."

Washington also received calls from Miami and Baltimore.

"They wanted to do the same thing and put me on the practice squad. I said I might as well stay here."

HALFTIME CALL

Max Starks turned in a near-flawless performance in his first career start as the Steelers' right tackle. But his father, former NFL defensive end Ross Browner, was a harsh critic.

"He called during the game," Starks said. "He said, ‘I can't believe you just messed up on that one play. Why don't you bucket step?'

"You know I'm not going to hear this," Starks said later into an imaginary phone.

"I'm not going in at halftime and listen to my cell phone. He's crazy."

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