PDA

View Full Version : Mendenhall needs to seize starting opportunity



fordfixer
10-27-2009, 01:53 AM
Harris: Steelers' Mendenhall needs to seize starting opportunity

By John Harris, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 50013.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_650013.html)

I'm not an agitator, just curious.

Curious minds want to know why Rashard Mendenhall won't take the Steelers' starting job and run with it.

Why doesn't Mendenhall protect the football, especially around the goal line?

Why does he shy away from contact despite weighing a muscular 225 pounds?

Every time Mendenhall fumbles or doesn't take a defender head-on, I'm reminded that he slipped to the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

He was projected to go much higher, which is why the Steelers didn't hesitate drafting him even though they didn't personally interview him or dig deeply into his background because never in their wildest imagination did they think he would be there.

The "hot hand" that coach Mike Tomlin said last week kept Mendenhall ahead of Willie Parker on the depth chart cooled off considerably against Minnesota.

If Parker gets healthy, things could become interesting.

Clearly, Tomlin likes Mendenhall enough to start him as Parker continues to struggle with turf toe. Tomlin, however, won't tolerate fumbling.

For the second consecutive week, Tomlin benched Mendenhall after a key fumble. Sitting Mendenhall against Cleveland was no big deal; the Steelers had that game in hand. But with the game on the line in the fourth quarter against Minnesota, Mendenhall was on the bench despite averaging a whopping 6.9 yards on 10 carries.

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin went through the same thing with Tiki Barber, a notorious fumbler who developed better ball security once he changed how he carried the ball.

Mendenhall has only played in 11 NFL games. It's too early to judge his body of work.

"The young fellow fumbled, and every time he puts a helmet on, it's a learning experience for him," said Tomlin, who reiterated that Mendenhall will start Nov. 9 against the Denver Broncos.

Mewelde Moore carried three times for eight yards on the Steelers' final possession. On second-and-4, Moore was dropped for a 2-yard loss. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked on the next play, and the Steelers were forced to punt holding a 20-17 lead.

Moore does a better job of securing the football, but he doesn't scare defenses the way Mendenhall does.

Tomlin is high on Mendenhall's potential; he just doesn't trust him late in games.

It's the Steelers' version of Catch-22.

Mendenhall averages 5.4 yards per carry and has four rushing touchdowns this season. Parker averages 3.1 yards per carry and has no rushing touchdowns. Mendenhall has out-gained Parker by 231 yards with only 18 more carries.

When I wrote prior to the third game of the season against Cincinnati that the Steelers should run Mendenhall more and Parker less, I believed it was Mendenhall's time because of his upside, fresh legs and Parker finally showing his age.

I still feel that way. But it wasn't until Mendenhall got some carries under his belt that his strengths emerged along with his weaknesses.

Mendenhall hits the hole faster and harder than Parker does. But Parker, even though he prefers taking it outside, is a more willing runner between the tackles. Ironically, Parker's willingness to mix it up inside contributed to some of his injuries.

Mendenhall is a big back who runs like a scatback.

Mendenhall isn't Jerome Bettis, but it's still early in his pro career. Maybe he'll eventually grow into becoming more comfortable running inside as Bettis did.

phillyesq
10-27-2009, 07:37 AM
I had never heard the criticism that Mendenhall shies away from contact before, and I'm not sure that it is accurate. I haven't seen him run somebody over the way Peterson did to Gay, or anything like that, but I don't think I've seen him avoid hits either. Am I missing something?

Oviedo
10-27-2009, 08:07 AM
I had never heard the criticism that Mendenhall shies away from contact before, and I'm not sure that it is accurate. I haven't seen him run somebody over the way Peterson did to Gay, or anything like that, but I don't think I've seen him avoid hits either. Am I missing something?

I agree. Mendy doesn't hesitate to go into a mass of bodies and fight for additional yards. If you are as old as I am you will remember how Franco harris was constantly criticized for the same thing. If Mendy turns out to be like Franco I'm good with it.

If you look at the last two, one he was down on his back and if not for being on top of a player he would have been ruled down but he fought for extra yards to get in that position. This past game he attempted to dive over a player for extra yards and left his feet. But again trying to get extra yards.

Mistakes in both cases by a young player that are being overplayed because of the predisposition by many in the Pittsburgh media and fan base to look for negatives before positives.

Jooser
10-27-2009, 09:07 AM
Mendy is the THE BEST running back on our team right now. Period!(.) He made a mistake, but was out rushing AP before he was yanked Sunday.

SteelAbility
10-27-2009, 09:16 AM
Mendenhall is hitting the holes with resolve and authority. His lateral acceleration looks very strong which strengthens his ability to freeze defenders, get to the outside and get more yards. He's consistently faster to the outside than smaller defenders. Plus he's a beast of a blocker. Once he solves his fumbilitis his productivity is going to open more time for Ben and passing O.

SteelAbility
10-27-2009, 09:19 AM
Mendy is the THE BEST running back on our team right now. Period!(.) He made a mistake, but was out rushing AP before he was yanked Sunday.

Yes, and if BA would stop out-thinking himself and just stick with the guy averaging 6 point FRICKING 9 yards per carry, he would have ground down the Vikings D and way outperformed what many consider to be the best back in the game.

Jooser
10-27-2009, 09:30 AM
Yep, sometimes you have to let a player get back out there and redeem themselves for their mistakes.

JTP53609
10-27-2009, 12:28 PM
the more he plays the more i like, he can run inside real nice and bang for 5 yds, and he can hit the outside and get 15 in a snap....I really do think he could be the full package once he get more experience and oh yea HANGS ON TO THE BALL....i really do like him, he should be good for a while..

ikestops85
10-27-2009, 12:55 PM
That was an interesting analysis. I don't have a problem with Mendy trying to avoid the big hit and slip tacklers. To me that is an asset. I've never noticed him "laying down" to avoid a hit. Only trying to avoid taking the hit head on. That is the sign of a good running back -- not a negative. As someone before me mention Franco had a damned good career running that way.

Except for the fumbles I like the way Mendy is running. He's exciting and another weapon for Ben to use. I do think some here must realize that his ypc would go way down if we had given him the ball 25-30 times last week. While our line has certainly improved we must face the fact that we are a pass to set up the run team now. People are not playing 8 in the box nearly as much as they used to.

I did notice that Mendy has about as much success as Willie does when met in the backfield by defenders. That is to say -- NONE. :stirpot

Slapstick
10-27-2009, 01:00 PM
Yep, sometimes you have to let a player get back out there and redeem themselves for their mistakes.

Good call! I've said the same thing many times myself...

NW Steeler
10-27-2009, 01:08 PM
For one, he needs more than 10 freaking carries in a game. He will solve the fumble-itis. Parker looks cooked if you ask me. They need to let Mendy just play, regardless of his fumbling. Benching him only makes him preoccupied with that issue. If he fumbles, they need to go right back to him, not bench him. I think if they do that, the fumbling will go away. He is one of our best players. They need to use him a LOT more than they are.

phillyesq
10-27-2009, 01:11 PM
Yep, sometimes you have to let a player get back out there and redeem themselves for their mistakes.

I really think that Tomlin is handling this well. When the game is on the line, it is clear that Moore is the ball security guy. But Mendy didn't lose his job or anything like that over the fumble, and will have an opportunity in two weeks to demonstrate that he has learned to hang on to the ball.

Oviedo
10-27-2009, 01:31 PM
That was an interesting analysis. I don't have a problem with Mendy trying to avoid the big hit and slip tacklers. To me that is an asset. I've never noticed him "laying down" to avoid a hit. Only trying to avoid taking the hit head on. That is the sign of a good running back -- not a negative. As someone before me mention Franco had a damned good career running that way.

Except for the fumbles I like the way Mendy is running. He's exciting and another weapon for Ben to use. I do think some here must realize that his ypc would go way down if we had given him the ball 25-30 times last week. While our line has certainly improved we must face the fact that we are a pass to set up the run team now. People are not playing 8 in the box nearly as much as they used to.

I did notice that Mendy has about as much success as Willie does when met in the backfield by defenders. That is to say -- NONE. :stirpot

Few RBs in the league would be successful getting hit by 250-300 lb defensive players in the backfield when they only have one or two steps of momentum. I'll bet for 90% of the players in this league that equates to a loss every time. We are just spoiled because Bettis was as big or bigger than the players hitting him and could usually get a yard or so. As I have said many times before Bettis was a freak and a once in a generation RB. Can't use him as the gold standard and be reasonable.

SteelHead
10-27-2009, 02:32 PM
Wow , this article seems way off to me. To say Willie is a more willing competitor when it comes to taking hits , that's just crazy. How many times over the years , even when healthy , have we seen Willie take a seat on the turf to avoid contact. I've even watched several games where defenses were mic'd up when playing against us and several players have said things like " That boy doesn't want to get hit ". But I digress , this isn't a post to bash Willie , he's served us very well and is a heck of a competitor. You need no more evidence than the fact that he was a UDFA and became the feature back for several years on a SB caliber team.

Mendy is playing very well this year IMO. He is hitting the holes quick and hard , making nice cuts and taking contact very well. His fumbilitis needs to be cured quickly , no doubt , but the guy has proven to be the best back we have , hands down. Pass pro has been surprisingly good as well.

Go Rashard !!!

stlrz d
10-27-2009, 11:22 PM
Wow , this article seems way off to me. To say Willie is a more willing competitor when it comes to taking hits , that's just crazy. How many times over the years , even when healthy , have we seen Willie take a seat on the turf to avoid contact. I've even watched several games where defenses were mic'd up when playing against us and several players have said things like " That boy doesn't want to get hit ". But I digress , this isn't a post to bash Willie , he's served us very well and is a heck of a competitor. You need no more evidence than the fact that he was a UDFA and became the feature back for several years on a SB caliber team.

Mendy is playing very well this year IMO. He is hitting the holes quick and hard , making nice cuts and taking contact very well. His fumbilitis needs to be cured quickly , no doubt , but the guy has proven to be the best back we have , hands down. Pass pro has been surprisingly good as well.

Go Rashard !!!

Just for the record, defenders say that about guys all the time. Nothing more than smack talk.

Captain Lemming
10-27-2009, 11:36 PM
Wow , this article seems way off to me. To say Willie is a more willing competitor when it comes to taking hits , that's just crazy. How many times over the years , even when healthy , have we seen Willie take a seat on the turf to avoid contact. I've even watched several games where defenses were mic'd up when playing against us and several players have said things like " That boy doesn't want to get hit ".

Just for the record, defenders say that about guys all the time. Nothing more than smack talk.

I think he misunderstood. They weren't talking about Parker.
They were talking about a fellow defender's fear of Hines. :wink:

SteelAbility
10-30-2009, 11:13 AM
I just looked up the league stats and noticed that Mendenhall is #7 is YPC at 5.4. A couple of the guys ahead of him are obviously situational runners who tend to get big yards rushing on 3rd and long when the D backs off.

Felix Jones DAL 8.6 YPC 29 Carries
Correll Buckhalter DEN 6.7 YPC 47 Carries

Among players with 70 or more carries, Mendy is #5 in YPC.

papillon
10-30-2009, 11:42 AM
I wish the Steelers wouldn't yank him every time he fumbles the ball. If they're that worried about it then he isn't the back for the Steelers and he can play out his rookie contract and go elsewhere. Otherwise, if they believe he's the back they want they have to let him work through this in practice and in the games.

He has seized his opportunity and is playing well except for the fumbles. He's as complete a back as the Steelers have had in their history. That doesn't mean he'll be as good as Harris and Bettis, but he certainly has more tools than each of them had.

Let him play!

Pappy

NW Steeler
10-30-2009, 11:47 AM
:Agree
:Cheers
:tt2

RuthlessBurgher
10-30-2009, 12:37 PM
It's not as if he is fumbling like he did back during the preseason of his rookie year. Both fumbles this season occurred in odd circumstances. For the first one, his progress was stopped, but the ref didn't blow the whistle, and he wasn't ruled down because he was on top of another player instead of on the ground. For the second one, he was stupidlylaunching himself over the line of scrimmage at the 5 yard line instead of a at the goal line. Neither is a run-of-the-mill type of fumble. Weird things happen. I'm not worried about fumbleitis.