Let's start by looking back -- to the Steelers' impressive 15-9 overtime win Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, to the huge role played by their defense to give the team a chance to be successful in the first of four games they will be without suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That sure beats looking ahead -- to the game Sunday at Tennessee, where the Steelers are 1-8, to the matchup against Titans All-World running back Chris Johnson. "The fastest man I've ever seen," Steelers linebacker James Farrior called him this week. "I can't think of anyone faster ... "
Wait a minute.
Stop right there.
I said we would start by looking back.
Farrior loved that idea.
"We looked good," he said after reviewing tape of the Atlanta game. "Guys were flying around. We didn't have a lot of mental mistakes. It felt like we were in control of whatever they wanted to do."
Farrior is the captain of the defense. Any dedicated, caring parent can relate to how he feels after a game. When his guys struggle, as they did last season when the defense blew five fourth-quarter leads and the Steelers missed the playoffs by one game, he hurts and takes it personally. But when they do great things, as they did Sunday when they held Falcons running back Michael Turner to 42 yards and the Atlanta offense to three field goals, he is the proudest man on the planet.
"It means a lot to me because I have a lot of say-so with this group," Farrior said. "I make the calls and get them lined up. To be able to do that for these guys is special."
Farrior is closest to the linebackers. He is one, right? He lines up inside in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme next to fourth-year pro Lawrence Timmons, who might have been the best player on the field Sunday. Dominating just as he did during training camp and in the exhibition games, Timmons was credited with 11 tackles -- three for losses -- and also had a quarterback pressure.
"It's his time. He should have a Pro Bowl season," Farrior said. "The mental part of his game has caught up with his talent. He was young when he first got here. Just 20 years old. He didn't know what to do or what to expect or how to be a pro. He knows now. I tell him all the time. No one can block him. He just needs to go out and play."
Outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison each had a sack against the Falcons. "Business as usual for those two," Farrior said, shrugging. Harrison also forced Falcons offensive tackle Sam Baker into a drive-killing holding penalty in overtime.
"They were in [quarterback Matt Ryan's] face all day and I think he felt the heat," Farrior said. "Those guys brought great pressure all day."
And how about the old guy of the group? No. 51?
"I played good," Farrior said. "I missed a couple of tackles. I know I missed one on Turner in the backfield and he ended up having his longest run of the day -- 7 yards. But, overall, it was pretty good."
Farrior had 11 tackles and a quarterback pressure. Pretty good is right, especially for a fellow, 35, in his 14th NFL season. Wasn't he supposed to have lost a step?
You could have fooled Turner, Ryan and the rest of the Falcons.
"I don't feel old," Farrior said. "I feel strong. It's all in your head.
"It's good to show I've still got a little juice left in the tank."
Farrior is the first to admit he will need everything he has Sunday in Nashville to keep up with the great Johnson ...
Hey, I didn't say we weren't going to look ahead at all, did I?
Farrior was agreeable.
"I had a chance to work out with him when he came out of college," he said of Johnson. "I timed him in the 40. He was wearing a 20-pound vest and he still ran a 4.34. I couldn't believe it. I asked another guy who was timing him what he had. He said 4.34. I was like, 'Damn, that's fast.' "
Johnson ran for 2,006 yards last season to lead the NFL. He had 142 yards in the Titans' easy win Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. That was his 12th consecutive 100-yard game, two shy of Hall of Famer Barry Sanders' NFL record.
"We're going to shut that down," Farrior said. "We're going to make it tough for him."
It's a nice thought. The Steelers did hold Johnson to 57 yards on 15 carries in their opening-game win against the Titans last season at Heinz Field. But this is 2010. The Steelers' defense is a year older and a ...
Now, it was Farrior's turn to say wait a minute.
"A year better," he said, grinning.
Ron Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.