Usually on a short week, teams don’t have the time to put a lot of new stuff in for the opposition. That’s the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night as they prepare for the Tennessee Titans.
With that being said, the Steelers game plan should be pretty vanilla and we should see a lot of the similar stuff we’ve seen so far this season. With that being said, there are a few keys for the Steelers to get on the right side of .500 for the first time this season.
The first of which is for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to continue to play at a high level. Big Ben has thrown eight touchdown passes to only one interception and has gone three games without throwing a pick. In addition he’s one of only six quarterbacks in the league with a quarterback rating over 100.
If the Steelers get similar production from the running game as they did last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, Roethlisberger could have a field day against the Titans’ 29th ranked pass defense.
On the other side of the ball, it could be as simple as stopping Titans’ running back Chris Johnson.
Johnson has struggled since holding out last season and is performing as bad as he has at any time in his career. On the season, the former 2,000 yard rusher has gained only 210 yards on 79 carries, averaging only 2.9 yards per attempt. However if you look a little bit deeper and take away Johnson’s one good game of the season- a 25 carry, 141 yard performance two weeks ago against the Houston Texans- he has gained only 69 yards on 48 carries (1.43 ypc).
But getting to Johnson early and bringing him down is going to be key.
Johnson is averaging 1.8 yards per rush before first contact this season, sixth-worst among players with 40 rushes and more than two full yards worse than 2009. However the Steelers have allowed 3.1 yards per rush before contact, fifth-worst in the NFL.
Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley are out of Thursday night’s game, so it will be important for the Steelers to put forth a solid team effort aimed at stopping Johnson, who has easily been the most disappointing player in the NFL.
It’s not the same Steelers defense that never allowed 100-yard rushers as that happens more often than not these days. But they can’t allow Johnson to approach that number.
If they do a solid job stopping the run and force Titans’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to beat them, they should have a big advantage Thursday night.