Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Remember The Titans: Roethlisberger Looks For Win And Record In Tennessee

As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the Earl Campbell, Dan Pastorini and the Houston Oilers this Thursday night, Terry Bradshaw will look to set a record...

Oh,'s actually Chris Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck and the Tennessee Titans that the Steelers will face. My bad. I got nostalgic because Terry Bradshaw really is a part of this game.

As Ben Roethlisberger leads his Steelers into Nashville's LP Field Thursday to face the struggling Titans, he has a major franchise record within reach.

Per Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette, the Elias Sports Bureau changed Big Ben's stats in the Eagles game. His adjusted stats are 22-38 for 220 yards and a touchdown. The change also gives him 13 extra passing yards which means Big Ben needs just 287 yards to break the passing record (27,989 yards) of Steelers legend and four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Terry Bradshaw. -

NFL quarterbacks have averaged 284.4 yards passing against the Titans this year. Big Ben is averaging exactly 281 yards per game, six yards shy of the record amount needed. Seems just right for a reason to remember the Titans.

Unfortunately for Rashard Mendenhall, that also means his rushing numbers were reduced considering what is now a TD pass was a lateral and TD run. So, his stats are now 13 rushes for 68 yards, with a 5.23 yards per carry average (was 5.78 YPC). -

Mendy isn't the running back that is of main concern for the Steelers this week, however. That honor goes to the Titans' former 2,000 yard back, Chris Johnson.

Despite getting a $53 million contract for past efforts, this season Johnson has been as valuable as 2001 Enron stock and falls just as fast after the initial contact. CJ2K isn’t Earl Campbell by any means, but is a runner who’s willing to dance around a little until he finds a crease. He has rushed for only 210 yards so far this year, putting him on pace for a career low 672 yards.

But, the Steelers know CJ2K's potential and are ignoring his production thus far.

“We’ll be taking the approach that we can’t underestimate this guy,” linebacker Chris Carter said as reported in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s still a home run-type runner. He can still break an 80-yard run, so we’re focused on containing him.

“You definitely have to give a player like that respect because his résumé has looked good for years," Carter continued. "We can’t give him any lanes, and that’s ultimately what it comes down to. He’s not the type that’s going to run over you; it’s about him getting open space.”

In other words, just because Reggie Jackson struck out more than anyone, he could also go yard three times in an inning. So, you have to account for him, and the Steelers must stay gap sound in their pursuit. Not that we've ever said that before. -

Johnson has faced the Steelers four times in his career and has gained only 211 yards (3.46 YPC) and two touchdowns. He did, though, break off a 60+ yard run four years ago...that was negated by a holding call. The point being that the home run can happen.

CJ2K may be off to a slow start this season, but the potential is there. If the defense is to keep him bottled up, they must be patient and maintain a high technique level throughout the game. Something they haven't been consistent doing this season.

The late game swoon has been an issue this season and absolutely has to be corrected. It couldn't be complacency (it had better not be complacency), so conditioning would seem to be the reason behind it. Blame could be laid on the new practice schedule, per the CBA. But, it still comes back to the coaches making the necessary adjustments.

That said, the Steelers are in an unfamiliar position at this point in the season. The Steelers can't afford to take any team lightly. Period. With the Ravens and Bengals both ahead of them in the division race, their playoff run may already have started.

Without two of its main defensive stars also, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley are both out as expected, the remaining players must share a greater load. (Per the Wednesday practice report, Rashard Mendenhall, James Harrison and Stevenson Sylvester are all probable.)

Jason Worilds is showing himself to be much more comfortable on the left side and he should start as the stand-in for Woodley. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said he thought Worilds played a good game, so it should seem to reason he'll see the bulk of the snaps. The strong safety position is another story.

Regarding that backup position, Mike Tomlin said they're "willing and capable" of playing not only fill-in starter Ryan Mundy but also special-teamer Will Allen in Polamalu's place Thursday.

LeBeau confirmed Tuesday that both Will Allen and Ryan Mundy should see time with Polamalu out. LeBeau says he considers Mundy and Allen the same person. -

That isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, so forgive me if I don't do cartwheels.

The Steelers need to address both safety positions in the next draft and/or offseason. Both Polamalu and Ryan Clark are getting up in age and an heir apparent for each needs to be found.

Not that Polamalu is done, just that this latest injury is proof that it is time to look to the future. His presence will be missed Thursday because, like Dale Lolley of NFL From The Sidelines brought out, he is still a difference maker:

Despite not having that difference maker the Steelers defense should handle Matt Hasselbeck and crew. They're only averaging 17 points per game. The opposing quarterback has professional and personal reasons for wanting this game: if Big Ben does break Bradshaw's record, he wouldn't want to do it in a loss.

While the Titans are also allowing 36 points per game, don't assume 36-17 will be the score of a Steelers win. In fact, a 27-9 win would have a beautiful sense of symmetry to it.