Who Is to Blame for Titans' Lackluster Running Attack vs. Steelers?

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIISeptember 8, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 08: Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans rushes against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on September 8, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Titans came away with a hard-fought win on the road, but I don't think anyone was happy with a 112-rushing-yard game.

The Titans paid big money for Andy Levitre and Shonn Greene, then used their first pick in the draft on Chance Warmack for the specific purpose of strengthening the rushing attack. When you remember that they already had Chris Johnson, the expectations for a great ground game in 2013 seem reasonable.

However, against the Steelers, Johnson rushed 25 times for a measly 70 yards and was hit in the backfield repeatedly. Even when he did get past the line of scrimmage, his longest run of the day was 11 yards.

So who's at fault for this poor performance? I think there's a lot of blame to go around.

For once, I can't say that Johnson shoulders much of the blame. For the most part, he hit the holes that were there. Unfortunately, in his sixth year at running back, he may have simply lost a step and is not the elite player he once was.

Even so, Johnson isn't at fault here. He took what came to him on most of those carries.

The offensive line was actually good for the most part. When Johnson was hit in the backfield, it was usually by an unblocked player, and that's one issue.

An offensive line can be great, but the linemen can block only one man each. If the defenders know what's coming and send in one more defender than there are blockers, there's not much that can be done about it.

This is where offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains comes in. The only time a defense knows to send that one extra guy is when they know what's coming, and one way they might know what's coming is when play-calling is predictable.

The Titans have been guilty of predictability for several years, so it's not much of a surprise that the trend continues with Loggains. At the game's start, my hopes were high since, rather than starting on the ground, the Titans put the ball in Locker's hands on the first three plays.

Things quickly changed as the Titans began to go entire drives without a passing play or a change at running back.

However, I'm sad to say that Loggains isn't actually the main offender. That distinction belongs to Jake Locker.

When Locker was completing passes, the Titans' running game fared better. Unfortunately, there were long stretches when Locker wasn't doing that, and so the Steelers defense had no reason to prepare for anything other than running plays.

Now, the Steelers have had one of the best defenses in the NFL every season for years, so there's a chance that Locker and the running game suffered in part because they were facing a tough opponent, but even so, with several other tough defenses left on their schedule, the Titans can't afford to perform that badly.

Locker is going to have to find a way to be a consistent passer, and the coaching staff is going to have to find a way to be a little less predictable when Locker isn't being consistent. If both of those things don't happen, then there's little hope for a playoff appearance by the Titans this season.