The Pittsburgh Steelers have faced Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson four times since he came into the league and they have had good success at shutting down the speedy back.
In the four games that Johnson has faced the Steelers he has 61 carries for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns. That breaks down to a 3.46 yards per carry average. In addition, Johnson is off to a slow start this season as he has rushed for just 210 yards on 73 carries through the first five games and he has yet to score.
Johnson is not happy about the performance of the Titans offense so far this season and he expressed his unhappiness on Monday. “I don\’t believe we\’re close right now,” Johnson said, via TitansInsider.com. “You look at the games and how we\’re playing, we don\’t look like a good team. I wouldn\’t sit here and say we\’re close.”
Johnson evidently doesn\’t see himself as the root of the Titans problems. “We need somebody in this locker room to make plays and give us a spark,” Johnson said. “I feel like I\’ve made some plays, but the situation of a spark has got to come from somewhere and getting a spark that can be big for this team.”
Johnson might think that he is making plays, but there haven\’t been many of them as he only has 7 runs of 10 yards or more to his credit so far this season with the longest being 19 yards.
Just because he and the rest of the Titans offense is struggling doesn\’t mean that Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is taking him lightly.
“I think he’s a great back,” LeBeau said on Tuesday. “He’s a home run hitter and I think if he gets the ball a significant amount of times, he’s going to make some yards. Just some of the games, the way they’ve gone, he hasn’t had that many touches.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin also commented on the Titans running back on Tuesday during his conference call with the Titans media when he was asked if Johnson looks like the same player the Steelers played against in 2011. “I think he does in that any time he touches the ball, he’s capable of ringing up the scoreboard,” said Tomlin. “When you’re playing guys like that, you have to have a level of respect for what they’re capable of, regardless of what is going on with presence circumstances.”
“He’s one snap away from righting that thing, and we just don’t want it to be us. We respect what he’s capable of from that standpoint, so we just have to be on the screws. We felt like we were holding him down pretty good down there in 2010, and he went 85 yards on us on one snap. Thankfully, the play was called back, but that’s just a little insight in terms of how he’s able to get you. We respect that.”
The Steelers success over the years against Johnson is because they general have been able to get him moving east and west instead of north and south. Facing Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy this past Sunday was a good warm-up for what they will see Thursday night with Johnson. If the Steelers are able to bottle up Johnson Thursday night the way that they did McCoy, the Steelers chances of winning the game improve significantly.