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Are Michael Turner's Struggles A Reason For Concern?

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Michael Turner arrived in Atlanta and quickly became one of the league's best running backs. However, weight issues, injuries and a slow start have some fans wondering if he's still capable of regaining his status as The Burner.

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32 carries, 82 yards, 2.6 average, 0 touchdowns.

Those are Michael Turner's numbers in his last three games since he suffered the ankle injury in week nine against Carolina last season. His 42 yards on 19 carries against the Steelers on Sunday invite more scrutiny since the rest of the offense sputtered as well.

In the past, Matty Ice (revoked by the Falcoholic) Matt Ryan was not asked to win the game. He was asked to do three things: 1. Hand the ball to Turner. 2. Hand the ball to Turner. 3. Pass to Roddy White/Tony Gonzalez if 1 and 2 failed. The issue now is 1 and 2 are failing. So, what's wrong with The Burner?

The Beginning

When Turner arrived in Atlanta, he lit the Georgia Dome on fire with 220 yards in his first game against the Lions. He finished that season with 1,740 total yards and 17 touchdowns on his way to the Pro Bowl.

He followed that up with 832 yards and 10 touchdowns through the first nine games of 2009 - a 92.3 per game average. Extrapolate that out for a full season and you get 1,539 yards and 17 touchdowns. Those are insane, Tecmo Bowl-type numbers.

Injury Issues

Before the ankle injury, Turner was as durable as they come. He played in 44 games in a row dating back to his days with San Diego. He's the perfect combination of an inside-the-tackles runner with off-the-edge breakaway speed. In essence, he's an workhorse back that every team in the NFL would love to have.

Going Forward

So is it time to worry? Not yet. The Steelers had the third-best rushing defense last season and they had a healthy Troy Polamalu back so no one was expecting Turner to dominate. Against the Cardinals though, he will not be afforded the same luxury.

Turner has averaged only 50 yards on 14.5 carries in his two lifetime games against the Cardinals but there are reasons for optimism. They gave up 81 yards to Steven Jackson in Week 1 and allowed six 100-yard rushers in 2009. Look for Turner to get back on track with 100+ rushing yards and a trip to the end zone.

Otherwise, feel free to worry.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.