The inaugural "Cannonball Run" on the opening kickoff, with the ever-dangerous Texan Andre Davis looking to rip a come-backer right from the get-go, saw Keyaron Fox prove what everybody already knew -- he's one tough hombre. Fox went through three Houstonians like an elephant going through a wicker chair in an Asian furniture store. Kindling wood anyone?
Marvel Smith had a battle going all day. Mario Williams up close and personal is as scary as advertised. He reminded me of Jevon Kearse, "The Freak," in his heyday. Just add a lot more muscle and a dash of athleticism and you begin to see what Smith was up against.
Williams' take-off speed was phenomenal, so Marvel short-set him most of the day. By doing so, he took oomph out of the big clash and didn't allow Williams to get the short corner most of the day. Smith was as physical as I've seen him in the last couple of years.
The Great Defensive Stand of the Day, Part I, belonged to the Steelers and Casey Hampton on the ill-advised fourt-and-1 at midfield in the first quarter. Hampton made Texans center Chris Myers look like he was part of the ESPN GameDay crew.
Great Adjustment of the Day belonged to Steelers offensive line Coach Larry Zierlein, who had the hogs "man" some of the crossing pass-rush schemes rather than "area" block them. The danger lies in one of the hogs getting picked by a defender, and then having the other scrape around behind. For the most part the guys up front did a terrific job adjusting on the fly and making sure they were on the same page.
No Adjustment of the Day went to Chris Kemoeatu, whom I'm guessing didn't get the call when Mario Williams stood up off the line of scrimmage and blitzed. Chris froze, Williams gobbled up Ben, and DeMeco Ryans was off to the races with the fumble recovery. Those will become things of the past as Big Chris gets more reps. Kemoeatu digs up more Heinz Field turf with other peoples' faces than I've seen in a while.
Great Defensive Stand of the Day 2 is the minus four yards the Texans didn't gain after Ryan's fumble recovery. That is what you want out of your defense. Come in and shut them down after a turnover.
It was a dog day afternoon for Texans left Tackle Duane Brown. James Harrison issued a personal "Code Red" beating on Brown, and subsequently QB Matt Schaub. Harrison throws that uppercut like Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan used to throw. It was a low and hard fastball with plenty of ill will behind it. Having LaMarr Woodley on the other side is only going to make life better for Silverback.
Speaking of LaMarr, he put on quite the athletic show. Give the man a cigar for that sack, interception, and fumble recovery trifecta.
The Getting Splatted in Stereo Award had to go to Houston CB Fred Bennett. On Willie's TD run that made it 28-3, Bennett was crushed by Marvel Smith. A few plays later, on the opposite side of the field, Chris Kemoeatu mulched him. A play or two after that Parker smoked Bennett on the 32-yard scamper. That was a mixed bag attempt by Bennett to avoid contact and bring Willie down all on the same play, but it doesn't work in the big boys' league.
Willie Parker is all that and more. When he turned the corner and ran around the aforementioned Bennett, the acceleration used to turn the corner made me say "wow." My last Jolly Roger fell right out of my gaping pie hole. No worries. The three second rule was enforced.
The Troy Polamalu Hair Indicator Test had the long-haired-flying-Hawaiian-human-crash-test-dummy at full strength and popping pads. Troy had that jump in the legs that separates him from all other safeties. I haven't seen hair stand that straight out parallel to the floor since the last time boxing promoter Don King picked up loose change.
Ryan Clark is good, real good. He's always in the right place at the right time. He gets the team lined up better than a Cub Scout leader with self-esteem issues.
The best break on the ball I saw all day was Sir Lawrence of Timmons, when he broke on Ahman Green catching a flare in the flat. No hesitation; just an instantaneous response and ferocious closing speed. He's a ninja in head gear, I tell you.
NOTHING takes the stuffing out of a defense faster than a 10-play touchdown drive with only one pass involved. Nine running plays tell you all you need to know about who was winning the battle in the trenches. Kudos goes to Bruce Arians for putting the boots to the Texans the old-school way.