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fordfixer
10-01-2010, 12:44 AM
Mendenhall expects test from Ravens
By Mark Kaboly, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, October 1, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 02203.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_702203.html)

There are a lot of superlatives being thrown around these days when it comes to describing Rashard Mendenhall's running style.

Like patience Mendenhall waited for David Johnson and Hines Ward to make key blocks on his 34-yard run against Tampa Bay last week.

Like vision Mendenhall saw the hole over the right guard in Tennessee and broke off a 20-yard gain.

Like burst He took off and ran away from Atlanta defenders for a game-winning 50-yard touchdown run in overtime Week 1.

The patience, vision and burst have helped Mendenhall get off to a fast start, rushing for 332 yards and averaging more than five yards per carry through the first three games of the season.

But it's Mendenhall's power running game that's starting to get noticed more and more every day.

"Pittsburgh's been looking for that back since they lost "The Bus" years ago," Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, referring to Jerome Bettis. "He's a complete back now, and they're really getting him involved in that package."

The 5-11, 225-pound Mendenhall excelled at being the Steelers' goal-line back a year ago, scoring six of his seven rushing touchdowns from four yards or closer.

Still, Mendenhall has never really been looked at as having power running skills ... until now.

"He proved it last year," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "He made some really good runs, second-effort runs and tough runs."

Last week against the Buccaneers, Mendenhall showed his power skills when he met safety Sean Jones in the hole on a goal-line run for the 3-yard line. Mendenhall slammed into the 6-1, 220-pounder and dragged him into the end zone for a touchdown.

"All you have to do is watch last year's tape," Arians said. "If he is surprising you this year, then you didn't watch him last year. I think that (run against Tampa Bay) proved it."

Out of Mendenhall's nine career rushing touchdowns, every one has been from seven yards or closer, except the game-winner against Atlanta.

"That's just part of my resume," Mendenhall said. "That's what I've been doing in high school and college. Even though, I'll take the long runs all day. Those are the plays that make ESPN, and it feels good to run away from those little guys."

Mendenhall's toughness came into question early on in his career and especially when Lewis put him out for the year with a routine-looking hit during Mendenhall's rookie year.

Mendenhall, who broke his shoulder on the play, will get a chance to show off his running skills this weekend against a Ravens team known for stopping the run.

In seven of the past eight regular-season games, Baltimore's front seven have held the Steelers to less than 100 rushing yards.

Baltimore did allow Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis to gash them for 140 yards last week and are giving up nearly 130 yards on the ground per game for the season.

"They are really good," Arians said. "The last couple weeks, some teams have cracked them a little bit, but they are the best front seven we will see against the run."