Roethlisberger took his first step in avoiding the sophomore jinx, throwing for 218 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 attempts in a season-opening 34-7 rout of Tennessee last Sunday to improve his regular-season record to 14-0 as a starter.
However, a bone bruise on his knee kept Roethlisberger from practicing Wednesday and Thursday as he was downgraded from probable to questionable by coach Bill Cowher. The reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year did practice Friday, a good indication that he might be ready to start against the Texans.
“The biggest thing is just make sure I’m ready to play for Sunday,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ll be ready by Sunday, hopefully.”
If Roethlisberger can’t play, backup Tommy Maddox will start.
Running back Willie Parker was the biggest story coming out of the Steelers’ easy win.
“I’m not ready to sit here and say everything is set with one game,” said Cowher, still mindful his first-string offense did not score a touchdown in the preseason. “I’ve said this before, the first month of the season, you’re creating an identity. It’s not what you do in one game. It’s not what you do in two games.”
Ideally, Cowher would like to see what Staley and Bettis can do in this game. Staley, who had knee surgery in training camp, is listed as questionable while Bettis, sidelined with a calf injury, is doubtful.
“I’ve got to see them run and I’ve got to see them jump, cut and accelerate,” Cowher said. “They have to feel comfortable and I have to feel comfortable.”
The Steelers played strong defensively after allowing a touchdown on the Titans’ opening possession, forcing four turnovers. Cowher was especially pleased with the performance of cornerback Ike Taylor, who filled in for injured starter Willie Williams and played so well he might get the nod again this week.
“I thought he did a lot of good things,” Cowher said. “He tackled very well. He was in position when needed to be in position. I thought he played a solid game.”
The last thing the Texans want to face is a stout defense like Pittsburgh’s after opening the season with a dismal 22-7 loss at Buffalo. Houston’s offense produced a staggering list of ineptitude: no first downs until the second quarter, five turnovers, five sacks allowed, 120 yards of total offense and seven possessions that lasted three plays or less.
“That’s as helpless as I’ve felt playing quarterback since I’ve been in the third grade,” said quarterback David Carr, who finished with 70 yards and was intercepted three times. “We just couldn’t get anything going. It was embarrassing for our team, the fans and our family.”
One bright spot for the Texans was their defense limiting the Bills to one touchdown and only three second-half points. Cornerback Dunta Robinson already has accepted the challenge of keeping opponents off the scoreboard while the offense finds its rhythm.
“We win together. We lose together,” Robinson said. “If the offense turns the ball over … we go out there and we’re thinking, ‘Let’s get the ball back for the offense.’ We don’t go out there thinking, ‘This is the offense’s fault.”’
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