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Steelers Defense free of blame for loss

Monday, December 09, 2002

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

They said the offense was pathetic. And they were right.

They said the quarterback spent more time on his back than a Jiffy Lube mechanic. And they were right.

They said the wide receivers have a hard time getting open in a Wal-Mart. And they were right.

But enough about the Steelers.

The offense of the Houston Texans was even worse.

But, then, who needs offense when the defense scores three touchdowns in a 24-6 upset victory against the Steelers?

"They didn't put up a huge fight," safety Brent Alexander said of the Texans. "They didn't even try to put up a real fight."

To be sure, the Texans showed why they have the lowest-scoring offense in the National Football League. They managed just three first downs -- two came on their first possession -- and 47 yards of offense, the fewest yards by a winning team in NFL history. It was also the second-fewest yards allowed in Steelers' history, behind the 40 offensive yards gained by the Cleveland Browns in their 1999 expansion year.

What's more, the only offensive points mustered by the Texans -- a 43-yard field goal by former Steelers kicker Kris Brown with 3:35 remaining -- came after Antwaan Randle El fumbled a punt return and Houston linebacker Troy Evans recovered at the Steelers' 20. However, even that scoring drive lost 5 yards before Brown added three points.

"It's hard to hold a team to that many yards," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "That's ridiculous."

"I don't think you can ask for a better performance from a defense," Coach Bill Cowher said.

How bad was it?

Texans quarterback David Carr attempted just 10 passes, completing three, for 33 yards. The wide receivers did not have a catch. The leading rusher was James Allen, who gained 19 yards on 13 carries. And the longest play was a 15-yard pass to tight end Billy Miller, who had all three receptions.

Think anyone on the Steelers' offense is teasing the defense this week?

"That's the most dominating [performance] I've seen since I've been playing in the NFL," said Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior, who twice stopped the Texans on third-and-1 plays. "I never got to do that in high school or college."

It was difficult to ascertain if the Steelers' defense was that good or the Texans' offense that bad.

Several players said the Texans showed little of their offense once they took a 14-0 lead on a 40-yard fumble return by cornerback Ken Wright and a 70-yard interception return by cornerback Aaron Glenn, the first of his two scoring returns in the game. Alexander said the Texans never used a three-wide receiver formation after the first quarter.

Even Carr said the Texans played "not to lose" in the second half, meaning they played very conservative.

The result: The Steelers had more than double the number of offensive plays (95 to 40) and the total yards was 422 to 47.

"I think they just tried to keep it simple," Farrior said.

Nonetheless, the Steelers' defense was finding little comfort in its performance, considering the emotional ramifications of losing at home to an expansion team.

"It's a game I think we should win," Alexander said.

"I don't think anyone in the league likes to lose to an expansion team," safety Lee Flowers said.

But, at least the defense did not have to withstand the verbal darts tossed in its direction last week in Jacksonville, missives that angered Flowers because he said they were coming from some young members of the offense.

"The whole thing is, we have a job to do," Flowers said. "All the stuff going on this week, you media thought the team was trying to separate in the locker room. We just got back to, we take care of our side, they take care of their side. That's the approach we took. We came up on one end, we came up short on the other end."

Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1466.

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