On opening weekend in Pittsburgh, the slightly re-tooled defense of Dick LeBeau will take the field looking to accomplish three major goals in an effort to win the team’s 7th-straight home opener under Mike Tomlin.
1. Chris Zigs, Chris Zags – Stopping the opponent’s running game is always job one with any Dick LeBeau defense and this Sunday will be no different. Former 2,000 yard rusher Chris Johnson got better and better through the course of last season and had a decent game against the Steelers.
He rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per carry which is unacceptable for this defense. He was kept out of the end zone but those numbers are still too much for any Steelers’ defense to surrender.
A lot of Johnson’s runs last season started in one direction and immediately went in the other. The Steelers must be disciplined and not allow Johnson to find seems when he cuts back. This is exactly what will make LeBeau nervous about rookie Jarvis Jones being in there. Can he remain disciplined enough to stay home and be ready for Johnson’s cut backs?
2. Make Jake Locker Beat You – Jake Locker is one of the least accurate passer’s in the NFL and the Steelers have to make sure that continues. The Titans have very good receivers in Kenny Britt and Kendall Hunter who can make plays after the catch, but that means Locker will be able to deliver the ball to them.
If the Steelers can accomplish goal #1, then the game will fall into Locker’s hands. Pressure must come in waves and must be disciplined because of Locker’s athletics and ability to scramble. The outside rush must keep him in the pocket while the rush up in the middle must get to him and force him to make poor and hurried throws.
3. Turnover a New Leaf – We all know that what has plagued this team in recent years is the lack of turnovers. Part of the reason the team felt good about replacing Keenan Lewis with Cortez Allen is because Allen showed a penchant for creating and making turnovers.
Troy Polamalu has shown a side of himself in the preseason that we haven’t seen in a couple of years. Obviously his health is a huge issue so he must take advantage of his good feelings now and become the whirling dervish we know he can be.
Same goes for LaMarr Woodley. Woodley flashed a few glimpses of his old self in the previous season and then must continue with the added flavor of causing turnovers as well. Locker fumbled the ball four times last year in limited action so let’s hope Woodley and company can add to that total.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.