Tackle relishes chance to play for injured Pace
Holt leaves game with chest injury
BY NORM SANDERS
ST. LOUIS - Knee and ankle injuries that sidelined St. Louis Rams All-Pro offensive left tackle Orlando Pace gave veteran Todd Steussie some prime time action Saturday against the Houston Texans.
Steussie is a two-time All-Pro who can play right or left tackle, but he feels more at home on the left side.
"That's the spot I'm most comfortable with," he said. "I enjoy being out with the (starters). It's nice being around some guys that have accrued some playing time and I'm not the old man hanging out with the young guys."
It didn't take long for Steussie to appreciate what Pace brings to the Rams.
"He's a tremendous athlete," Steussie said. "It's sometimes frustrating because he makes it look so easy. You fight your butt off and then you see him do it, and he just looks like he's floating out there."
The 35-year-old Steussie doesn't mind being a backup, but he's not about to turn down a chance for playing time. He also has maintained a high conditioning level --missing just two games since entering the league in 1994.
"It's always been important," Steussie said. "But when you're competing with guys whose birthdays are in the '83, '84 range, it's a little staggering. You realize that you have to make sure that you're taking the time to invest in the offseason, get in good shape and stay in good shape."
The Rams plan to use Steussie as a fill-in wherever needed. He would prefer starting, but understands the situation.
"It was an adjustment at first," he said. "But I still enjoy the game, I still like being around it. And when my number's called, I get a chance to compete again. I still love it.
"I always joke that it's better than growing up and working for a living."
Rams star receiver Torry Holt left the game with a chest injury after being hauled down hard from behind by former Rams cornerback Dexter McCleon late in the second quarter.
Holt's X-rays were negative and he did not return to the game.
"The point of the ball hit his sternum," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "It's a little uncomfortable; we'll probably have to keep an eye on him for the next couple days. It wasn't serious."
Other game injuries included defensive end Brandon Green (bruised heel) and rookie linebacker Jon Alston (hyperextended knee).
Out of the lineup were Pace (mild ankle and knee sprains), defensive end Leonard Little (strained quadriceps muscle), fullbacks Paul Smith (tight calf muscle) and Madison Hedgecock (ankle sprain), linebacker Jamal Brooks (toe) and guard Claude Terrell (wrist).
Super Mario visits St. Louis
Houston Texans rookie defensive end Mario Williams, the first overall pick in the NFL draft, showed plenty of speed and agility in the first half working primarily against Rams right tackle Alex Barron.
Williams didn't get a sack, but he did drop running back Tony Fisher for a 3-yard loss in the second quarter for his only tackle. Barron, the Rams' first-round pick in 2005 at 19th overall, more than held his own most of the time.
" It's two guys out there trying to get better," Barron said. "He's a great player, a great athlete and he's got good instincts. He was just trying to get better out there, just like I was."
Barron, who played at Florida State, faced Williams and North Carolina State several times with both schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"He's out there trying to do his thing and I'm trying to keep my things stable," Barron said. "It's good for both of us."
One of the biggest debates in Houston has been whether the Texans made a mistake by drafting Williams first overall instead of running back Reggie Bush.
Bush, an All-American from Southern Cal, went to New Orleans with the second overall pick. Still, it's tough not to like Williams. He's 6-foot-7 and 291 pounds and can run the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds.
"I checked him out, he looked like a No. 1 draft pick," said Rams linebacker Brandon Chillar. "He looks like a beast, but I'm more worried about the Rams right now. I'm not worried about him."