Head-to-head: Steelers ILB Lawrence Timmons vs. Titans RB Chris Johnson
Sunday, September 19, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Lawrence Timmons vs. Chris Johnson
James Harrison doesn't need to watch film to know Titans running back Chris Johnson is fast. He has faced him twice and is well aware of the speed that was timed at 4.21 at the NFL Combine in 2008.
"He can cut the corner and get around people where normally a guy couldn't," said Harrison, the right outside linebacker.
Inside linebacker James Farrior goes a step further when talking about Johnson, who is seeking his 13th consecutive 100-yard rushing game at 1 p.m. today against the Steelers.
"He's the fastest man I've ever seen on the football field," Farrior said.
Ike Taylor, maybe the fastest cornerback in the National Football League, knows all about trying to corner Johnson and stop him in the open field.
In the Steelers' last appearance at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.-- a 31-14 loss Dec. 21, 2008, their last defeat on the way to a sixth Super Bowl trophy --Johnson took a misdirection pitch and scored on a 21-yard run that gave a Titans a 17-14 lead in the third quarter.
On the play, Taylor had a chance to tackle Johnson in the backfield and missed, allowing him to scamper pretty much untouched into the end zone.
"You see the angles guys take, and they have him 1 or 2 yards right in front of them, and he just takes off," Taylor said. "He probably is -- no, he is -- the most dangerous guy in the league."
Johnson needs back-to-back games of 100 yards rushing to tie the NFL record of 14 in a row held by Detroit's Barry Sanders. But he will be going against a Steelers defense that has allowed just one 100-yard rusher -- Baltimore's Ray Rice -- in the past 35 games.
In two previous meetings against the Steelers, Johnson has rushed for a combined total of 121 yards on 31 carries. He had a 32-yard run in the season opener at Heinz Field last year, when he was held to 57 yards on 15 carries -- one of 32 runs of 20 yards or longer since joining the Titans in 2008.
"He's very deceptive," said inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. "You know he's got speed, but, when you go out on the field, you really see his speed, and it really throws you off."
People say the same thing about Timmons' closing speed, much of which was on display last week against Atlanta. Of his nine solo tackles, three were behind the line of scrimmage on running back Michael Turner.
One of the basic principles of the Steelers' 3-4 defense is to use the defensive linemen to keep opposing guards off their linebackers and create space for them to make tackles. They did that to perfection against the Falcons.
"Aaron and all those guys make our life easier when we can flow to the ball," Timmons said, referring to end Aaron Smith. "As linebackers, you have to love that."
He will have to flow quickly against Johnson.
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