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fordfixer
10-14-2009, 12:13 AM
Going in opposite directions
October 13th, 2009
http://blog.triblive.com/view-from-the- ... irections/ (http://blog.triblive.com/view-from-the-press-box/2009/10/13/going-in-opposite-directions/)

Mike Tomlin claims that he doesn’t have a doghouse.

If he did have one, the headliners of the Steelers’ 2008 draft class would have been jockeying for space in it at the end of last month.

A lot has changed since running back Rashard Mendenhall got demoted following a bad week of practice and wide receiver Limas Sweed dropped a touchdown pass against the Bengals.

At least for Mendenhall.

The first-round draft pick has taken the opportunity afforded him by the turf toe that sidelined Willie Parker and literally run with it. Two-hundred forty-two rushing yards and three touchdowns later, Mendenhall has shown that he is the Steelers’ feature back of the future and maybe even the present.

Parker is slated to start practicing again this week but it remains to be seen how much his toe will hamper him. And he wasn’t exactly running roughshod over opposing defenses before his latest injury.

Mendenhall has made a strong case that he and Parker, who is in the final year of his contract, should at the very least split carries the rest of the season. Of Mendenhall, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, “His best days as a running back and as a Pittsburgh Steeler definitely lie ahead, as long as he respects the preparation process and continues to come in here with a humble and willing-to-work demeanor like he has.”

Sweed’s future, by comparison, doesn’t look nearly as bright.

The guy who not too long ago battled Mike Wallace for the No. 3 spot at wideout is now fighting just to stay active on game days.

Sweed and Shaun McDonald will vie for the fourth and final slot at wide receiver, a process that Tomlin said is “going to be week-to-week as we proceed with those two from here on out.”

In what amounts to an admission that Sweed cannot be trusted enough to play a prominent role on an offense that has taken off, Tomlin said the 2008 second-round pick will likely dress instead of McDonald when the Steelers need help on special teams.

Even more an indictment of the hands that have too often betrayed Sweed and the Steelers: what Tomlin said about McDonald, who nearly had a 1,000-yard receiving season two seasons ago with the Lions. “We acknowledge that Shaun McDonald’s a guy that’s capable of separating at break points, getting open, and moving chains,” Tomlin said.

In other words, he can catch the ball.