Shutting down the run a key

The Steelers defense will have their hands full once again this week looking to stop Titans running back Chris Johnson.

"He is an amazing player, one of the best backs in the league, no question about that," said defensive end Brett Keisel, who will return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a knee injury. "He is so explosive and has such good feet. He is a patient runner. A lot of runners these days will run up and hit the hole if it's not there. He will wait for the hole to open up and no one can catch him.

"He is definitely a handful. We all have to be gap-sound and play team ball."

Johnson has amassed 4,797 yards in just three and a quarter seasons, including rushing for 2,006 yards in 2009.

"He has unbelievable speed, something you can't coach," said cornerback Ike Taylor. "With him a play is never over with because of what he can do. With him you have to be on key at all times."

Johnson's numbers are down right now, with 199 yards on 69 carries through four games, but he is coming off a 101 yard performance against the Cleveland Browns last week.

"He is the X-factor," added cornerback William Gay. "You have to contain him, stop him any way possible. You can't allow him to get the big plays."

The Steelers are a team that prides themselves on stopping the run, but are currently ranked 22nd in the NFL against the run, allowing 4.8 yards per carry and giving up 119.5 rushing yards per game.

"We have a lot of pride with our run defense and it hasn't been up to par to this point," said Keisel. "We definitely need to get that turned around if we want to win games.

"There is tradition here. We still have a lot of the same guys who have been here year in and year out. We need to put it together and do it for 60 minutes."

The defense has also allowed two 100-yard rushers in the first four games of the season, something that pains them.

"It is the most frustrating thing ever," said Ryan Clark during his Steelers Speak interview. "Once teams get rolling with the run, they are going to continue to do it. They are going to continue to pound the ball. Why not? It's a safer way to move the ball up the field. To know it's coming and you can't stop it, it's demoralizing. Especially when you have guys who for so long and throughout their career have been able to stop the run to the point where teams don't even try to do it.

"To be going through the situation we are now, to be in a game in the midst of a 100-yard game, and not just as a team they got 100 yards, but for one player to be excelling against us is extremely frustrating and it's embarrassing. It's like a fighter who has never been knocked out get punched in the face and buckle. It's something we need to change."

The good news is there is something that players are able to point to in order to make that change.

"It's nothing that we can't figure out," said Taylor. "We just need to get back to playing our style of football and that is physical, aggressive football."

That includes sound tackling, something defenders have been focusing on this week.

"The biggest thing is going out and preparing each week, working on your techniques out here in practice," said Keisel. "We don't tackle but you can break down and get in a tackling position where you know you will be able to make that play. You have to carry that into the game, carry your practice work into the game and we will be ready to go."

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