Texans routed in Pittsburgh

September 7, 2008 5:55:31 PM PDT
The Houston Texans lost a gamble, a challenge and, likely, their opener in the first five minutes of the season. Willie Parker and the Pittsburgh Steelers made certain the Texans didn't get a second chance in a 38-17 win that was effectively over early in the second quarter. [BLOG: Our sports guys break down Sunday's loss]

Parker ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns and a near-perfect Ben Roethlisberger threw two scoring passes to Hines Ward in a Steelers rout Sunday that began with Houston's fourth-down failure on its opening possession.

The Steelers retain most of the top players from the team that won the Super Bowl three seasons ago -- during an era when free agency often dramatically reshapes teams from one season to the next -- and many played a role in Pittsburgh's sixth consecutive season-opening win. The streak is the NFL's longest since Miami won 11 in a row from 1992-2002.

Parker showed no loss of speed or cutback ability from the broken right leg that ended his 2007 season in the Steelers' next-to-last game, when he was leading the NFL in rushing. Roethlisberger missed on only one of 14 passing attempts until being lifted after three quarters.

Ward made six catches for 76 yards and Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, coming off an injury-filled season, made his first interception in nearly two years.

For the Texans, the first game of a season full of hope -- the 2002 expansion franchise went 8-8 for the first time last year and won three of its final four -- quickly fell apart after coach Gary Kubiak decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Steelers' 48 on the game's opening drive.

Quarterback Matt Schaub leaned into the line and appeared to have gained the needed yard, and one official signaled a first down. But the ball was inches short when measured and, despite Kubiak's protests to referee Terry McAulay that a first down had been called, the ruling was upheld upon replay after Houston challenged.

The Steelers, getting the ball at nearly midfield, needed eight plays to score on Parker's 7-yard run. Roethlisberger scrambled down an abandoned Houston sideline for 17 yards on third-and-4 from the Houston 46.

On Pittsburgh's next possession, an apparent 75-yard Roethlisberger-to-Ward scoring pass was waved off when Ward was called for pass interference. But Roethlisberger came back four plays later to hit Ward for 29 yards to the Texans' 34, and Parker later scored from the 13.

Parker's three TD runs were a career high and are one more than he had last season, when he ran for 1,316 yards.

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley's interception led to Roethlisberger's 13-yard scoring pass to Ward for a 21-0 lead with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter. Parker added a 4-yard TD run on a toss play in the third quarter. Woodley also recovered a fumble and had a sack in his first career start.

Houston didn't get into the end zone until a 14-yard Schaub-to-Kevin Walter pass with nine minutes to go. Schaub was 25-of-33 for 202 yards and a TD run with 1:14 left, and Andre Johnson made 10 catches for 112 yards. But Houston was held to 75 yards rushing.

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