Steelers quiet about Mendenhall's role
By Scott Brown
Friday, September 5, 2008
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• The Steelers and Rashard Mendenhall are not saying much about what role the rookie running back will play Sunday against the visiting Houston Texans. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians did say Thursday that he expects Mendenhall to get "10 to 15 plays" while spelling starting running back Willie Parker in the 1 p.m. game at Heinz Field. "If Willie gets tired, he'll be in there," Arians said of Mendenhall. "No special roles." Arians said the Steelers have not settled on who will be the team's short-yardage back. Parker, who had 11 rushing touchdowns in 2006 but just two last season, could be used in that capacity, Arians said. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin hinted earlier in the week that Mendenhall would be the short-yardage back if he does a better job of holding onto the football. Mendenhall fumbled three times in a span of 21 carries in the Steelers' final two preseason games. "I don't worry about that at all," Arians said when asked if Mendenhall's fumbles are a concern.
• The Steelers worked out wide receiver Martin Nance yesterday at their South Side practice facility. Nance, a teammate of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's at Miami (Ohio), was cut last weekend by the Vikings. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder has played in one NFL game during his career, and that came in 2006. The Steelers have five wide receivers on their roster and one on their practice squad.
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• Tight end Sean McHugh, who signed with the Steelers earlier this week, won't play Sunday. McHugh has yet to practice because of an ankle injury. However, Tomlin said the team is simply taking things slow with McHugh since he would not have played against the Texans anyway. "He could probably fight through (the injury) if he were capable of playing this weekend, but he's not ready from an assignment standpoint," Tomlin said. "We're just exercising a little caution and letting him be all eyes and ears. We'll start fresh with him next week."
• Reserve offensive tackle Max Starks figures to serve as the third tight end Sunday if the Steelers need one. Starks played tight end in some short-yardage situations last season.
He said he expects to dress Sunday and serve as the backup at both tackle positions. As for playing tight end, Starks said, "We'll see then what capacity they have me in."
• Outside linebacker James Harrison, who was limited in practice Wednesday, participated fully in yesterday's practice. Tomlin said he held Harrison out of a part of Wednesday's practice to rest him. Texans linebacker Xavier Adibi (foot) did not practice yesterday, while offensive tackles Rashad Butler (shoulder) and Ephraim Salaam (shoulder) were limited in practice yesterday.
• The Steelers will honor former defensive linemen Ernie Holmes and Dwight White and legendary broadcaster Myron Cope before Sunday's against the Texans. All three passed away this year.
3 -- Sacks Troy Polamalu had the last time the Steelers played the Texans.
6 -- Consecutive games last season in which Texans defensive end Mario Williams recorded at least one sack.
3 -- Steelers NFL rank in stopping the run last season.
89.9 -- Rushing yards allowed per game by the Steelers last season.
Scott Brown can be reached at [email="firstname.lastname@example.org"]email@example.com[/email] or 412-481-54