Rashard Mendenhall steps closer to playing
Posted by Josh Alper on September 5, 2012, 5:18 PM EDT
No one gave Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall much chance of making it back from a torn ACL in time to play in the Steelers’ season opener, but he took a big step toward doing just that on Wednesday.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Mendenhall, who got rave reviews from the Steelers after Monday’s practice, went through a full practice with the team again on Wednesday. That includes 11-on-11 drills, practice time that is usually reserved for players that are expected to play a role in that week’s game. Per Bouchette, Mendenhall wore no brace or band on his knee as he went through the session.
Getting back on the field after having surgery to repair his injury in January would be awully fast, but Mendenhall has been taking steps faster than anticipated all throughout the offseason. There were fears that he’d miss the entire season then that he would start the year on the PUP list. Even when he was activated from the PUP list, the thought was that Mendenhall would be a bystander for the first few weeks of the season.
Now it looks like Mendenhall’s got a shot at playing against the Broncos. Or at least that the Steelers want the Broncos to think he’s got a shot at playing. We’d say he’s likely to play a supporting role to Jonathan Dwyer or Isaac Redman if he does play, but, at this point, it’s probably best to just wait and see what Mendenhall can do next.
Tomlin getting everybody ready to start at RB in Denver
September 5th, 2012
By Mark Kaboly | Tribune-Review
Isaac Redman said his ready to go, but his sore ankle might be an issue the entire season; Jonathan Dwyer is practicing like he is going to start Sunday’s opener in Denver; and Rashard Mendenhall is looking like he is close to 100 percent back from his January ACL surgery.
But the only man who matters isn’t showing his cards quite yet.
The Steelers practice for the first time Wednesday in preparation for Sunday’s opener, and when it came to reps with the running backs, Mike Tomlin gave everybody first-team reps – one at a time.
“Everybody is getting a rep and everybody is getting a look because you never know what’s going to happen,” Dwyer said. “(Runnng back) coach Kirby (Wilson) just wants everybody to get some reps.”
Dwyer confirmed that all the running backs were rotating in after one rep during team periods with the first team – Dwyer, Redman, Baron Batch, Mendenhall and Chris Rainey was the order.
“We all know what we are doing,” Dwyer said.
Does Dwyer read anything into being the first man in that rotation?
“Well, Isaac is still coming back from his situation,” Dwyer said. “He is looking pretty good. Everybody is looking good, everybody is ready. I am prepared to be the starter or the backup. Whatever they want me to do.”
Dwyer doesn’t know if he will start against the Broncos, but said he would be thrilled to get that opportunity.
“You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t excited,” Dwyer said.
Steelers in capable hands with Redman
Isaac Redman (33) enjoyed a huge game his last time time in Denver ... until overtime.
Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
By Mike Bires
PITTSBURGH -- Just as overtime began in last season’s wild-card game in Denver, Isaac Redman visualized the game-winning score. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself crossing the goal line with the ball in his hand.
But as Redman limbered up, fully expecting the defense to hold, he heard the home crowd erupt in joy. Just 11 seconds into OT, Tim Tebow threw an 80-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas that stunned the Steelers, 29-23.
“I was actually visualizing scoring a touchdown as (Thomas) was running for the touchdown,” Redman said.
“I wasn’t even watching the play. I was on the sideline stretching and getting my legs together. I visualized me and my teammates celebrating in the end zone. But then I heard the crowd going crazy. I turned around, I saw what was happening and said ‘Oh, man.’”
All of a sudden, the Steelers’ championship hopes were dashed and Redman’s terrific performance in Denver became a postscript in the post-game analysis. The Steelers getting Tebowed was the big story of wild-card weekend.
But Redman’s coaches and teammates didn’t forget what he did that day against the Broncos.
Starting at running back due to Rashard Mendenhall’s knee injury, Redman played the game of his life. On 17 carries, he gained 121 yards. He caught two passes for 21 yards. In his first playoff start, he averaged 7.5 yards a touch.
No wonder the Steelers feel good about Redman’s chances of starring again Sunday night in their 2012 regular-season opener at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
“He definitely played well in Denver last year. That’s a reason why he’s getting the nod coming into this season as the starter,” right guard Ramon Foster said. “He runs hard and we like blocking for the guy.”
Of course, the main reason Redman is slated to start Sunday night against the Broncos is that Mendenhall, a starter the past three seasons, is still on the road to recovery.
After tearing up his knee in the regular-season finale last year in Cleveland, Mendenhall is progressing well ahead of schedule. He’s progressed so well that coach Mike Tomlin hasn’t ruled him out of Sunday’s game. On Wednesday, Mendenhall was a full practice participant. Still, with player safety such an issue in the NFL right now, it’s hard to imagine Tomlin even dressing Mendenhall against the Broncos.
“He’s looking good,” Redman said of Mendenhall. “He has his base. He has his speed. He’s cutting. Whenever it’s time for him to come back … I’m sure he will be back as soon as he can.”
In the meantime, Redman figures to be the lead dog in a running back by committee that includes Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Rainey and Baron Batch.
“I visualize our corps of running backs being known around the league as one of the best groups of running backs in the league,” said Redman, a third-year pro who, at 27, is the oldest of the Steelers running backs.
Redman, who missed two of the four preseason games with groin and ankle injuries, is ready to do his part. He said he feels good after taking part in Wednesday’s practice without limitation.
“Last year in that game in Denver, I wanted to show all the coaches I was capable of playing well in a big-game setting,” he said. “I just went out there and played my heart out.
“This game, I’m looking forward to going out there and picking right back up where I left off. I think I proved I can run the ball when given the chance. I look at this opportunity to show the coaches I can be the No. 1 back for a long stretch of time. As far as who keeps the (starting) job when Rashard comes back, I just want to show the coaches that I’m capable of being No. 1.”
Ed B. on Pro Football Talk about Mendy and Wallace - they come up second after a blurb about Panthers:
Steelers RBs wait for call on starter
September 8, 2012
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers' Isaac Redman, shown here scoring against Buffalo in the preseason, is a likely starter for tomorrow's regular season opener. But Redman said nobody has told him he is the starter.
Since he became coach in 2007, Mike Tomlin has not been afraid to use one running back until the wheels came off. And sometimes they did.
Willie Parker was leading the league with 321 carries in '07 when he fractured his leg in Week 15 in St. Louis. Rashard Mendenhall was one of just five NFL backs to have more than 300 carries when he had 324 in '10.
In the five years under Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, the Steelers' top running back never had to worry about getting the bulk of the work, whether it was Parker or Mendenhall. The team's leading rusher averaged 263.2 carries a season in those five years.
That, though, might all change under Todd Haley, who used the running back-by-committee approach in Kansas City and looks as if he might want to do the same with the Steelers.
"As of right now, we've been switching out every play [in practice]," said running back Isaac Redman. "It looks like they might want to use us as a group instead of one guy."
Redman would appear to be the top back after stepping in for injured Mendenhall last season and rushing for 121 yards in the playoff loss in Denver. And, when the Steelers return to Sports Authority Field and open the regular season against Peyton Manning and the Broncos Sunday night, Redman likely will be the starting running back.
But Redman said nobody has told him he is the starter. What's more, it is possible Jonathan Dwyer, who led all rushers in the preseason and has been the team's most-improved player, could start against the Broncos. But nobody has told him, either.
Regardless who it is, the mere idea there appears to be no clear-cut starter is evidence of the approach Haley wants to use with his backs. And testament to the progress made by Dwyer in his third season.
"We have a plan and we're excited about the group," Haley said. "When Rashard gets back, whenever that happens, whether it's this week or next week, we got a nice variable at the back. We got some big guys who can move piles, we got some quick guys and we got some in-between guys."
Haley said he didn't know much about Dwyer when he came here after three years as head coach in Kansas City. But, after what he witnessed in the preseason, when Dwyer reported to training camp in shape and led the team in rushing, Haley said he saw "a young developing player who's made big strides from last year."
He said he also saw Dwyer working with younger running backs in practice, another sign of his maturation.
"It's a real encouraging sign of a kid who has grown up and realizes it's his third year," Haley said. "And that becomes the make-it or break-it time."
Dwyer reported to training camp weighing 236 pounds, considerably lighter than last season when he reported out of shape and his weight was "way above that, that's all I can say."
But, in addition to leading the team in preseason rushing, Dwyer made two plays in the third game in Buffalo that caught the attention of Tomlin and his coaching staff.
On one, Dwyer broke off a wheel route to make a 33-yard, back-shoulder catch on third down from the Steelers 3 to jump-start a 98-yard scoring drive.
On the other, he picked up a blitzing defender that allowed Byron Leftwich to throw a 39-yard touchdown to Antonio Brown.
"I wanted to go by what I saw, and everything I've seen is a young, developing player that's made big strides from last year to this year."
"I wanted to show I could do more, not just be a one-trick pony," said Dwyer, a fifth-round choice from Georgia Tech in '10. "I wanted to develop myself as a pass-catcher and a route-runner, and also with pass protection and being more of a student of the game.
"I wanted to develop myself as a professional."
Dwyer could fill the role previously played by Mewelde Moore -- a third-down back who also plays in the two-minute offense. But it won't just be him. Rookie Chris Rainey also will play in situations where the Steelers want to take advantage of his speed and big-play ability.
"I'm excited, not just for me individually; I'm excited I'm able to be a factor in helping us win games," Dwyer said.
"I want to be a part of that after getting a little taste of that last year. It made me more hungry to come in here, be in the proper shape, look my best and do what I have to do to give me an opportunity."
Even if he has to share those opportunities.