By Teresa Varley
The question marks were plentiful surrounding the Steelers offensive line going into Sunday's game against the Texans.
How would the line mesh with two new starters in there? Would continuity and communication be a problem? What kind of protection would Ben Roethlisberger be afforded after he spent last season scrambling in the pocket? And what about the ground game, could the line open the necessary holes?
The answer was pretty simple, the line could handle the job just fine.
"I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "I thought both of our lines responded."
Justin Hartwig made his first regular season start at center while Chris Kemoeatu was a newcomer at left guard. It didn't appear that it was a line in transition, but rather one that had been working together for a lot longer than a few preseason games.
"We did what we had to do to win," said offensive tackle Marvel Smith. "We got everybody on the same page. There was no doubt in my mind we could do it."
Running back Willie Parker benefitted from the strong play of the line more than anyone. He had 25 carries for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
"It's just a matter of getting an opportunity," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "I think they did a great job. Each guy who hasn't really been a starter got his opportunity and made the most of it. And they went out and opened up some huge holes for Willie to run through. Hats go off to the offensive line for doing a great job in opening up big holes for Willie Parker."
The most impressive showing by the line came in the second half when on the opening drive the Steelers just pounded the ball with Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, with Parker closing it out by scoring on a 71-yard drive that had just one pass play.
"We felt like our offensive line was really dominating their front seven" said Roethlisberger. "Our offensive line was doing a great job all day. When you get a big chunk on first down, a big chunk on second down, you don't have to throw the ball. We threw one naked (bootleg) in there, just to throw them off, but you have to give our offensive line a lot of credit."
Maybe just not too much credit because the line themselves knows that it will mean nothing if they don't keep it up.
"It's one game," said Smith. "We can enjoy it now, but tomorrow it's over. We did what we needed to do. But we left some yards on the field and we didn't finish up as well as we could have.
"We did some good things. But it's just one week. You can't be satisfied with one win. We can't just do it one week; we've got to keep doing it."