View Full Version : Mendenhall ready to carry his weight for Steelers

09-05-2009, 03:28 AM
Mendenhall ready to carry his weight for Steelers
.Matt Crossman
http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/article ... r-steelers (http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/article/2009-09-04/mendenhall-ready-carry-his-weight-for-steelers)

Mendenhall's play impresses the Steelers.CHARLOTTE, N.C. — By his own admission, Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall started last season like a "lost puppy." Everything was new—the speed of the game, the intensity, the size of opponents.

With the Steelers' first game less than a week away, Mendenhall is, in a sense, the biggest addition to the Steelers' offense—he played in just four games last year before a fractured shoulder ended his season. Though it's not clear yet exactly how he'll be used, his presence will give the Steelers a two-back attack.

Willie Parker will remain the main guy and probably will get the bulk of the carries, but Mendenhall will play a key role, likely as a third-down back.

"With the game today and how it's played, you need more than one running back," Mendenhall says. "There's a lot of two-, three-back systems. The nature of the game, how physical it is, and how violent it is, to have a couple guys that can be fresh and produce, that helps the offense."

The Steelers' offense could give opposing defenses all they can handle. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes form a potent passing threat. If Mendenhall and Parker combine like other high-profile, two-back tandems in Tennessee and Carolina, the Steelers' offense could be formidable. Add in the strength of the defense, and the Steelers seem like an early-season threat to make another Super Bowl run.

But this might be writing checks on an account that hasn't been opened yet. Mendenhall, a first-round pick in 2008, picked up just 58 yards on 19 carries last season. Preseason games and practice offer an incomplete picture of a player's development. Mendenhall touched the ball just twice in the Steelers' win Thursday over Carolina and went nowhere in either carry.

Still, Mendenhall's teammates and coaches have been impressed with his play.

"He took a nice step," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "I think he's in position to make the jump that we ask all second-year guys to make. He's worked extremely hard. He's diligent, professional. I like where he is."

.So does Mendenhall. With a year's worth of experience—even if a lot of that experience consisted of watching and learning from his teammates as opposed to playing—he is much more comfortable, on and off the field. "This year is a lot different. You can just play and react," he says. "Your comfort level, with everything off the field taken care of, you can just go out and play, you feel a lot more comfortable, like you're back in college."

He's running like the old days, too.

"I've seen some great runs. He's got great feet, great vision. He can put his shoulder down," said Steelers linebacker Bruce Davis