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fordfixer
09-17-2009, 05:11 AM
Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

By John Harris, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, September 17, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 43552.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_643552.html)

When I asked Steelers second-year running back Rashard Mendenhall if he was excited about returning to Chicago to face his hometown Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, Mendenhall looked at me like I was crazy.

Of course I'm excited, you knucklehead, was my translation of the expression on Mendenhall's face.

Instead, Mendenhall replied politely, all but adding, sir: "Yeah, yeah. Definitely, I'm excited. A lot of people asked me for tickets, but I'm only getting a handful.''

A more important question should be how Mendenhall, the Steelers' first-round draft pick from last season, is utilized against the Bears.

Between Mendenhall appearing sparingly in only four regular-season games as a rookie because of a shoulder injury, Willie's Parker's track record and Mewelde Moore's versatility, the Steelers still don't know what they have in Mendenhall.

That's unusual in the NFL.

Normally, when a team drafts a running back in the first round, he almost always plays right away.

Even if a back doesn't start, he at least gets some carries. By the second season, the team usually has a pretty good idea about the player.

Mendenhall's status remains a question mark.

Is his lack of playing time the result of his injury? Or is he just not ready to carry the load fulltime?

There were eight running backs drafted in the first round between 2005 and '07. All eight were regular contributors by their second season; seven were starters in Year Two. The exception was Carolina's DeAngelo Williams, who became a starter in his third season and rushed for 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Mendenhall was one of five running backs selected in the first round of the 2008 draft. Because of the shoulder injury, he had the lowest number of carries (19) and rushing yards (58) among them.

Mendenhall, the No. 23 player taken in the draft, carried four times for 6 yards against Tennessee in this year's opener. He isn't having the impact of Oakland's Darren McFadden (the No. 4 player drafted), Carolina's Jonathan Stewart (No. 13), Dallas' Felix Jones (No. 22) and Tennessee's Chris Johnson (No. 24).

The fact that Mendenhall is facing two running backs from his draft in the opening two weeks of the season is fodder for debate about how well he stacks up against players selected after him.

Johnson and Chicago's Matt Forte (second-round pick) each rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season, and Johnson made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

As for dealing with his inactivity, Mendenhall replied, "It's real early. I feel good about what I've done to this point. I'm mentally prepared, physically ready to go."

When asked Wednesday if he feels any pressure about not receiving more playing time given where he was drafted, Mendenhall responded positively.

"I try to keep everything as normal as I can, keep everything as my job, showing up and taking care of the things I need to take care of," he said.

Mendenhall said he's improved from his rookie season when, as he was adjusting to the speed of the NFL, he was lost for the year when a Ray Lewis tackle resulted in a broken shoulder.

Second on the depth chart this year behind Parker, Mendenhall lost snaps to Moore against Tennessee when the Steelers switched to a no-huddle, passing attack to compensate for a ground game that produced 36 yards.

"I'm just waiting," Mendenhall said. "As the season goes on and our running game grows, I'm confident that everything will work out."

JTP53609
09-17-2009, 07:32 AM
i really do think he will be okay, he has only played in 12 career games (8 preseason), I want to give him a little more of a chance before I jump to any conclussions, I want him to take handoffs aggresively and run hard, no dancing in the backfield...

Oviedo
09-17-2009, 07:50 AM
I want to see a game where they give him 15+ hand offs so he can develop a rhythm versus one or two here and there. He is going to get better as the season goes on. He just lacks NFL game experience and everyone forgets he is only 21 or 22 years old after being drafted as a 20 year old.

steelblood
09-17-2009, 07:56 AM
He is young and he has had limited chances. Still, he seems to lack confidence and/or drive. I hope he finds those soon.

Oviedo
09-17-2009, 07:59 AM
He is young and he has had limited chances. Still, he seems to lack confidence and/or drive. I hope he finds those soon.

I really think it is his blitz recognition and pick up that is probably holding him back. That is usually the hardest thing for a young RB to learn because they don't do it in college.

Mister Pittsburgh
09-17-2009, 08:02 AM
With our rushing troubles last year, and this year again through one game, if Parker even remotely struggles again against a depleted Bears front 7, if Mendenhall doesn't get the lions share of the carries against Cincy to build his confidence then something is majorly wrong. First round RB's should be big time contributors in their second year, if not their first, unless their is a stud RB in front of them which neither of our two guys are 'studs' in front of him.

Bottom line is if we struggle with the run again this week, and Mendenhall doesn't get at least half the carries against Cincy, then we wasted a first round pick and should of picked up a RB much later in the draft.

RKSteel
09-17-2009, 08:21 AM
I'd like to see Mendenhall get a majority of the carries this week. Start Mendenhall and let him pound it for 1-2 quarters. I would like to see Ben audible to a quick pass when there are 8-9 defenders at the LOS instead of trying to run it, cause the O-line can't block more than 5 guy at one time.

Then in the 2nd half bring in Parker, who can use his speed to outrun the tired D.

If Mendenhall and Parker both finish with around 70+ yds and 1-2 tds I'd be happy.

MeetJoeGreene
09-17-2009, 08:39 AM
I'd like to see Mendenhall get a majority of the carries this week. Start Mendenhall and let him pound it for 1-2 quarters. I would like to see Ben audible to a quick pass when there are 8-9 defenders at the LOS instead of trying to run it, cause the O-line can't block more than 5 guy at one time.

Then in the 2nd half bring in Parker, who can use his speed to outrun the tired D.

If Mendenhall and Parker both finish with around 70+ yds and 1-2 tds I'd be happy.

I am not sure that Parker has the speed he once did.

RKSteel
09-17-2009, 08:48 AM
I'd like to see Mendenhall get a majority of the carries this week. Start Mendenhall and let him pound it for 1-2 quarters. I would like to see Ben audible to a quick pass when there are 8-9 defenders at the LOS instead of trying to run it, cause the O-line can't block more than 5 guy at one time.

Then in the 2nd half bring in Parker, who can use his speed to outrun the tired D.

If Mendenhall and Parker both finish with around 70+ yds and 1-2 tds I'd be happy.

I am not sure that Parker has the speed he once did. Maybe not, but if he comes in when the D is tired, with fresh legs, he'll be faster.

RuthlessBurgher
09-17-2009, 10:14 AM
I'd like to see Mendenhall get a majority of the carries this week.

:Agree The fact that he is returning to his hometown and will be playing in front of family and friends is extra bonus motivation for him.