View Full Version : Starkey: Steelers stare down a monster

09-16-2010, 12:13 AM
Starkey: Steelers stare down a monster
Thursday, September 16, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 99724.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_699724.html)

NFL players aren't easily impressed by their peers. If they've seen one guy run a 4.4 40, they've seen a hundred.

Every once in a while, though, a truly unique "monster," as Steelers linebacker James Farrior put it Wednesday, comes along. And the prospect of facing him gets a locker room buzzing.

The Steelers' room lit up eight years ago in anticipation of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick coming to Heinz Field. It was buzzing last year, too, on account of a pending visit from Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson.

This is one of those extraordinary weeks.

Chris Johnson awaits.

Sure, the Steelers have faced the Tennessee Titans' cruise missile of a tailback two times and held him in check. But Johnson was merely very good then. He is the most dangerous man in football now (aside from Shaun Rogers in an airport, of course), coming off a season in which he set a league record with 2,509 yards from scrimmage.

As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin put it: "This guy can run through the back of your end zone every time he touches the ball."

You better believe the Steelers' locker room is buzzing. I asked Farrior who has pretty much seen it all in 13 NFL seasons if the prospect of facing Johnson excites the Steelers' defense.

"No doubt about it," Farrior said. "He proclaims himself the best offensive player in the NFL, definitely the best running back, and we take that as a challenge. Our defense is going to be extra fired up this week."

The Steelers, remember, could have drafted Johnson, who visited their South Side practice facility before the '08 draft. But when it came to pick 23rd one spot before the Titans they took Rashard Mendenhall out of Illinois.

Here's how the running backs went in the first round:

4. Darren McFadden, Oakland

13. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina

22. Felix Jones, Dallas

23. Mendenhall

24. Johnson

Titans coach Jeff Fisher said yesterday that he wasn't praying for Johnson to drop to the 24th pick, that he would have been pleased with Jones or Mendenhall. Ray Rice and Matt Forte wound up going in the second round, so it was an outstanding year for running backs.

But Johnson has become the prized catch. Three years into his career, he has 3,376 yards rushing, at 5.3 yards per carry, and 25 touchdowns.

Mendenhall got a late start, missing nearly all of his rookie season, but seems intent on making up for lost time. I asked him yesterday if he keeps a close eye on Johnson, seeing as he was drafted right before him.

"I think as a back you're looking at all your peers in the league, your draft class, all the starting running backs," said Mendenhall, fresh off that gorgeous, 50-yard game-winner against the Falcons. "You pay attention to those things."

Is this a chance for Mendenhall to announce himself as a star in his own right?

"I don't look at it like that," he said.

I do. I think there's something special in the air this week, on both sides of the ball. The Steelers have held Johnson to 69 and 57 yards in their two meetings, though he did burn them for a 21-yard TD run on a fourth-down play two years ago, reaching the end zone in the time it takes to light a match.

It's a classic matchup, really. Johnson has 12 consecutive 100-yard games, two short of tying Barry Sanders' NFL record. The Steelers have allowed only nine 100-yard rushers in the past eight years, easily the best mark in the league.

Sounds like appointment viewing to me.

09-16-2010, 03:02 PM
Not a truly fair matchup this time.
Without Ben, we won't be able to keep possession of the ball a well. Plus without an ability to score, the TiTans won't have an urgency to throw. Could be another 15-9 game.

sd steel
09-16-2010, 03:23 PM
Not a truly fair matchup this time.
Without Ben, we won't be able to keep possession of the ball a well. Plus without an ability to score, the TiTans won't have an urgency to throw. Could be another 15-9 game.

In reality we should be able to chew up more clock and keep the time of possesion advantage by keeping the ball on the ground more. With Ben in we use less clock by scoring faster and stopping the clock with incomplete passes. If we can sustain drives it might be the difference in how many carries Johnson gets and how long our defense is on the field.

09-16-2010, 07:07 PM
The ANSWER is simple...ST keep them pinned within the 10yrd line every time they rec, hold to short gains and hope defense gets some turnovers and scores FG are NOT going to do it this time