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fordfixer
09-11-2010, 12:22 AM
Stopping Michael Turner a priority for Steelers' defense
By John Harris, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, September 11, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 98998.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_698998.html)

Asked to name a running back who reminds him of Atlanta Falcons bruiser Michael Turner, safety Troy Polamalu thought of someone the entire Steeler Nation can relate to.

"If I can think of anybody, it would be Jerome Bettis," Polamalu said Friday, in advance of Sunday's 1 p.m. opener against Atlanta at Heinz Field. "Jerome ran with great balance and quickness, and he used his upper body to protect his legs. People would just bounce off him. Turner has huge legs, and he bounces off people. I would say that's the best comparison."

Entering his third season as the Falcons' feature back, Turner (5-10, 244 pounds) has similar physical dimensions to Bettis but lacks his staying power.

Turner had a spectacular campaign in 2008 when he rushed for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. Last year, a high ankle sprain limited Turner to 871 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games.

Still, the Steelers regard Turner as a key to stopping Atlanta's attack and every bit as dangerous as quarterback Matt Ryan.

"He's an awesome running back, a tough guy to tackle," Polamalu said. "From what I've seen on film, it's going to be a huge challenge for us."

Turner may be a big back, but he also has big-play capabilities from his blend of power and speed.

He has recorded a run of at least 58 yards in each of the last five seasons, including an 83-yard touchdown burst with San Diego in 2005, and he has never averaged less than 4.5 yards a carry in the NFL.

"He's a guy you've got to wrap up. He's not one of those guys you can hit and expect him to fall down. He continues to move forward," outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "We've got to hit him together as a unit."

Added defensive end Aaron Smith: "He has a combination of size, speed, strength and vision. He hits the hole and finds the opening."

Atlanta coach Mike Smith said Turner worked on his body in the offseason and is leaner and faster while still maintaining his power running style.

"He is lighter than what he started the season at last year," Smith said. "I know Michael is such a passionate guy about playing the game. He doesn't want to be known as a guy that was a one-year flash. We've seen nothing that says he won't be ready to go for the long haul this year."

Stopping Turner is imperative for the Steelers because shutting down the run is the foundation of their defense.

"We can't allow them to run the ball effectively, because they can always throw the ball," defensive end Aaron Smith said. "We can't allow them to be a two-headed dragon."

While the Steelers respect Turner's qualities as a runner, Woodley thinks it's premature to classify him in the elite category.

"I watch 'SportsCenter' a lot," Woodley said. "All I see them talking about is (Tennessee's) Chris Johnson and (Minnesota's) Adrian Peterson. I guess that's how I sum that up."