Hellhounds on Houston's Heels
James Harrison
James Harrison
SteelCityInsider.com
Posted Sep 7, 2008


James Harrison said he can't mention what he was saying to Houston QB Matt Schaub during the Steelers' 38-17 win. Brett Keisel yelled at him to "quit with the happy feet and step into the throw." It was one of those games for the defense.

PITTSBURGH -- Statistically, the best bookends in Steelers history sacked quarterbacks 24 times. Kevin Greene-Greg Lloyd did it in 1994, and Joey Porter-Jason Gildon matched it in 2000.

Well, make way for James Harrison-LaMarr Woodley. With four sacks in the opener, the duo is on pace to smash the record before the halfway point of the season.

“Pick your poison,” Aaron Smith said of the two players. “Their pressure was unbelievable.”

Harrison had three sacks and Woodley had one Sunday. The latter recovered the former’s forced fumble, and the former rolled around the end to force the latter’s interception. The two led the Steelers to a 38-17 win over the Houston Texans in the opener.

“James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley; those guys created a little bit of havoc coming off of the edge,” said Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin. “That’s why we are optimistic about what we are capable of doing, because of those guys.”

Harrison didn’t care that he led the NFL with three sacks after the early slate of games had finished. But he does care that he has a legitimate pass-rushing threat on the opposite side of the line.

“I guess they’re going to have to give Wood some respect,” he said of the first-time starter. “He might sneak up on them the first couple weeks, but after that they’re going to have to give him the same respect they give me.”

So, that would mean eight sacks a game?

“I don’t know,” Harrison said with a diabolical laugh. “We’ll see.”

His laughter died when the Texans’ touchdown was mentioned. Of course, with the Steelers out to 35-3 lead, the lapse in concentration was understandable.

“No, it’s not understandable,” Harrison countered. “You should play the best no matter what the score is.”

So, what about the Texans’ field-goal drive of negative four yards?

“I’ll tell you right now, we were a little hot about that,” Harrison said. “We wanted a turnover. We wanted to block it. Do something.”

Teammates call him “Deebo” and he brings the kind of intensity Porter and Lloyd brought to the position in the past. It’s the kind of intensity that produced three sacks and the two turnovers, or the plays rookie left tackle Duane Brown couldn’t stop by holding and tripping Harrison.

“The first half, my shoes were messing me up and I was doing a lot of bull-rushing on the tackle,” Harrison said. “I changed my shoes at halftime and I came back out and went back to the basics: started coming around the corner and slapping the hand and reaching with the other hand. It started working.”

It turned into a feeding frenzy. Once the Houston running game was stuffed, the Pittsburgh bookends attacked and made plays.

“I told them at one point to let us make some plays,” said Brett Keisel. “Woodley even stole a fumble from me. I’m like, ‘Come on dude, give us a little bit.’ But those guys are playing great, and when those guys are hot and getting after the quarterback, and we’re sitting in the middle taking up a couple guys, it’s fun. It’s going to be a fun year.”

Keisel added that the defense’s total of five sacks came out of a basic approach. “Very vanilla,” he said. “We didn’t run any of our stuff, really. We ran less today than we did in training camp. We know we have a lot of tough games coming up. Cleveland’s coming up. I’m sure we could probably use a couple of those nice blitzes for them.”


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