So tell us, Barry, how do you like your boys? How do you like being dealt a full house your very first time back at the poker table?
Yeah, we know that season openers back at Oklahoma meant 72-zip over teams like North Texas, but these were the Pittsburgh Steelers, man, at Three Rivers. Very nasty place to play, very tough defensive team when aroused. Remember what they did to the New Orleans Saints in that place last year (37-14) or the way they took the Buffalo Bills apart (23-0)? Show them any weakness, and they're on you like the hounds of hell.
And so, Coach Switzer, your Dallas Cowboys are off and running with a 26-9 victory. Sure, you've been looking at this talent since the minicamps, but did you honestly believe you would see such a collection of gamers under one roof? Did you like that 28-yard fade that Troy Aikman threw to Michael Irvin on third-and-two late in the third quarter, with Rod Woodson locked into as tight a coverage as you can get? Did you like the way your 238-pound fullback, Daryl Johnston, did a full layout on that diving catch for the first touchdown, just before the half?
Or how about Emmitt Smith gaining 171 yards on the ground and popping that 46-yarder in the first half to help break the game open? Or tight end Jay Novacek worming his way through the forest for half a dozen catches? Or that pair of 300-pound guards, Derek Kennard and Nate Newton, pulling for those long traps? Or Charles Haley making four sacks—some people didn't think he would make it out of the trainer's room this season—or 33-year-old Jim Jeffcoat coming up with three or your defense ringing up nine?
"Let's put it this way," Switzer said in his first regular-season NFL postgame press conference. "I was enjoying the moment. Just like that guy who ran out of the stands; he was enjoying the moment. Until they got him."
" Jimmy Johnson might have chewed us out for some things today," Aikman said of Switzer's predecessor. "Some of the blitz pickup in the first half, a breakdown here or there. That was his way. It kept you from getting complacent. Barry's more laid-back."
Laid-back, maybe, but nobody's fool. When Switzer arrived at Oklahoma, he inherited a team with Joe Washington and the Selmon brothers. His Sooners didn't suffer a loss until his 31st game. Switzer doesn't screw things up.
For Bill Cowher's Steelers, their strategy for taking on the two-time defending Super Bowl champions wasn't hard to figure out. Pittsburgh would try to pound the lighter Cowboy defenders with running back Barry Foster and the big guys up front, fortified by the return from a holdout of 280-pound tight end Eric Green. On defense the Steelers would have to put pressure on Aikman to break up the timed patterns off his quick drop. They would do it by blitzing people up the middle—smaller, quicker guys like Woodson from his cornerback spot or strong safety Carnell Lake. Smith, of course, would have to be dealt with, but quickness at filling the lanes could help.
And these Steelers have a history of high emotion on defense, when they're in the right mood. "You could sense ii dining the week that we were up for this one," said right outside linebacker Greg Lloyd after the game. "You could tell by the clacking of the pads."
Things looked good for the Steelers for a while. They took the opening kickoff and drove to a first down on the Cowboy 38. Then the sack parade began. Neil O'Donnell suffered three in a row, the first when Haley disrupted an attempted flea-flicker, the next when Haley got O'Donnell again, the third when Haley flushed O'Donnell and Jeffcoat forced him out-of-bounds.