Thursday, October 06, 2011

Anybody "Chris Johnson-Like" Out There?
At his Tuesday news conference this week, Mike Tomlin said, “For practice purposes we are going to look to at least bring in someone who is capable of being Chris Johnson-like in preparation this week.”

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Apparently the Steelers have been unable to find anybody “Chris Johnson-like.” What a surprise. Guess what? There is nobody like Chris Johnson on the street, on the waiver wire or in the Arena Football League. If there were somebody else like that, he’d not only be on an NFL roster, he’d be starting. Certainly the highest-paid running back and probably the fastest, only Chris Johnson is “Chris Johnson-like.” 

Still, it would be interesting to know who the Steelers might have been considering. They already have John Clay, the big rookie (6'1", 248) from Wisconsin, on the practice squad. Clay is more a between-the-tackles power back, however, than a speed back like Johnson, who had 2,006 yards in 2009.

"He has unbelievable speed," cornerback Ike Taylor said of Johnson. "With him a play is never over because of what he can do. With him you have to be on key at all times."

If the Steelers are looking for a speed back, they could do worse than looking at Ian Johnson, a running back from Boise State currently on the 49ers’ practice squad, which is his fourth practice squad since 2009. 

Ian Johnson
Granted, Ian Johnson is no Chris Johnson, but of all the running backs at the 2009 NFL Combine, he ran the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.46). And he shares the same last name as Chris Johnson, so he's got that going to make him -- "Chris Johnson-like."

The Steelers, however, are not about to sign a player off some other team's practice squad for just a few hours of practice. That player would have to be added to the Steelers' active roster.

And, although Mewelde Moore will miss Sunday's game, he will return soon, and Rashard Mendenhall might play this weekend. It was just a thought.

Feel free to leave a comment, below left.

"T" for Texas, "T" for Tennessee

From one "T" to another. The Steelers move on from their loss in Texas last Sunday to host Tennessee this Sunday. That would be the Tennessee Titans, not the Tennessee Volunteers, who produced Tee Martin, the quarterback former Steelers coach Bill Cowher somehow decided would be a better pro than Tom Brady.*

On to the matter at hand: The Tennessee Titans, nee the Houston Oilers. Led by new coach Mike Munchak, a longtime Oilers guard now in the NFL Hall of Fame, the Titans sport a gaudy and surprising 3-1 record. The team that somehow lost to Jacksonville in the season opener turned around to dominate the Baltimore Ravens the following week before also defeating the Broncos and Browns. It's tough to say just how good they are. 

Apparently, the Titans have a very good defense, which has allowed just 14 points per game and is being discussed as among the league's best. Their secondary is excellent, and their defensive line is large, mobile and likely to give the Steelers' struggling offensive line a multitude of problems.

On offense, the Titans are benefiting from surprisingly good play from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who signed with Tennessee this year as a free agent out of Seattle. Along with New Orleans' Darren Sproules and Houston's Jonathan Joseph, Hasselbeck is proving to be one of the best "value" free agent signings this year. ESPN talking heads have even bandied about** Hasselbeck's name as an early MVP candidate.
** What does "bandied about" mean, anyway? Whatever it is, ESPN blabbermouths are good at it.   

CJ2K, Chris Johnson
Ready to Run Wild?
More worrisome, perhaps, is the prospect of Chris Johnson (CJ2K) running wild. Johnson hasn't really hit his stride, but he must be relishing the opportunity to run against the Steelers, who allowed Houston's Arian Foster to rack up 155 of the Texans' 180 yards on the ground. The Steelers' run defense, uncharacteristically, is 22nd in the NFL (119.5 yards per game). Johnson's backup is Javon Ringer, who played his college ball at Michigan State. He's  good, too.  He has a black belt in karate and a running style reminiscent of former Iowa running back Shonn Greene, now with the New York Jets.

The top receiver for Tennessee is former Steeler Nate Washington, who leads the Titans with 23 receptions for 323 yards.

“Nate loves to play football, he has a can-do attitude, he is a bringer as opposed to an energy drainer, and he loves to work," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He was a good teammate for those reasons and others while he was here and it’s good to see that a young man like him is continuing to prosper.”

*About That 2000 Draft
We're having trouble letting it go. The Steelers, you will recall with rue, drafted Tee Martin with the second of two fifth-round choices in the 2000 draft. The Patriots, of course, drafted Tom Brady in the sixth round. Martin hung on for four undistinguished seasons in the NFL and now is the receivers coach at the University of Kentucky. Brady has won three Super Bowls, is in the discussion as the greatest quarterback in NFL history and is still going strong 11 years after the Steelers passed on him to draft Tee Martin. Not to be bitter.

To be fair to Martin -- who draws attention for the purpose of this discussion simply because he played the quarterback position, and it turned out there was at least one better option (Brady) available -- not only did the Steelers draft Martin ahead of Brady that year, they also drafted other "notables" like Hank Poteat, Danny Farmer and Chris Combs, a defensive end out of Duke whom they took in the sixth round with the 173rd pick overall.  Again, the Patriots drafted Brady in the sixth round with the 199th pick overall.

For the record, the Steelers' picks that year were Plaxico Burress (Rd. 1, eighth overall, just ahead of Brian Urlacher); Marvel Smith (Rd. 2); Hank Poteat (Rd. 3); Danny Farmer (Rd. 4); Clark Haggans (Rd. 5); Tee Martin (also Rd. 5); and Chris Combs (Rd. 6.).  That's it, Fort Pitt.