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mesaSteeler
08-31-2009, 12:06 AM
Mendenhall, Sweed making their cases
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_640835.html#
By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, August 31, 2009

For a guy who took hip-hop dance lessons during the offseason, a little more could have been expected out of Rashard Mendenhall after his a 4-yard touchdown run in the Steelers' 17-0 win over the Buffalo Bills.

But after racing through a gaping hole and into the south end zone at Heinz Field on Saturday night, the Steelers' running back simply flipped the ball to the turf.

"When you score, they tell you to act like you've been there before," Mendenhall said, "so celebrate with my teammates and give the ball back."

Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed, the other headliner in the Steelers' 2008 draft class, have not been there before, at not least in the NFL. But the two are stating their cases that each deserves a prominent role in the Steelers' offense this season.

Mendenhall rushed for a game-high 48 yards and a touchdown Saturday night and helped the Steelers dominate time of possession against the Bills.

Sweed, starting for the injured Santonio Holmes, caught four passes for 34 yards and made two twisting grabs in traffic on balls that were thrown a little bit behind him.

"We put a lot of pressure on those second-year guys," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "They've got to make plays. Limas is doing that. Some others have got to join him."

Mendenhall, the Steelers' first-round pick in 2008, appears to be doing just that.

He ripped off runs of 12 and 13 yards against a defense that crowded the line of scrimmage and also gained 13 yards on a pass reception.

While Mendenhall averaged just 3 yards per carry, Tomlin attributed part of that to the fact that the Steelers didn't alter the plan they had for running the football even though Buffalo seemed intent on shutting down the ground game.

Mendenhall did lose a fumble on the Steelers' first possession. But, as Tomlin noted, that happened after Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams beat left guard Chris Kemoeatu and hit Mendenhall right after he took a handoff from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"He's decisive with the football, he's running downhill, he's finishing runs violently," Tomlin said of Mendenhall. "I'm not displeased in any way with what he's doing from a contributions standpoint."

Whether he is doing enough to convince the coaches that he can give the Steelers a legitimate complement to starting running back Willie Parker remains to be seen. Mendenhall, after all, is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry in preseason play.

"From when I talked to Coach Tomlin and my running backs coach (Kirby Wilson), they're pretty pleased with my preseason and pretty confident and trusting in me," Mendenhall said. "I just want to keep that going."

More pressing for the Steelers than finding a back to ease the burden on Parker is identifying a No. 3 receiver who can step in for the departed Nate Washington.

Sweed, after a rookie season in which he caught just six passes for 64 yards, appears intent on seizing that role.

The 2008 second-round pick added to his impressive body of work this preseason with a couple of highlight-reel grabs against the Bills. One of those, a 16-yarder as he got crunched by a couple of defenders in the middle of the field, came on the 16-play, 87-yard touchdown drive that Roethlisberger directed near the end of the first half.

"I am really proud of how he stepped up," Roethlisberger said of Sweed. "At one point, I told him, 'Welcome to the big leagues,' because he made a big splash."

Sweed has had a couple of drops during the preseason, something that plagued him in 2008, but he has also turned in a number of big plays in the passing game.

The battle for the No. 3 spot at wide receiver appears to be down to the former Texas star and rookie speedster Mike Wallace.

"You can't worry about things that are not in your control -- just leave it up to the coaches," Sweed said. "I felt like I showed up when they needed me to show up."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

KeiselPower99
08-31-2009, 12:40 AM
Anyone else think Mendenhall looks like that BeetleJuice guy from the Stern show?

Mags87
08-31-2009, 12:46 AM
Anyone else think Mendenhall looks like that BeetleJuice guy from the Stern show?

i think he has an orlando jones look about him

Preacher
08-31-2009, 01:42 AM
IMO,

Sweed has the 3rd spot. Wallace is going to be 4th string... and will come in and SHOCK teams. IMO, he will line up against a nickel player and just BLOW by him.

sharkweek
08-31-2009, 05:20 AM
I believe the #3 spot has pretty much been his to lose. If anything I think this would have been the season where we saw him competing with Nate Washington for the #3 spot if we still had him, and I believe is part of the reason why Washington is gone.

Galax Steeler
08-31-2009, 07:03 AM
It is good see see Sweed and Mendenhall doing better. They should be able to contribute to the team alot more this year. Mendenhall is running better and Sweed is catching alot better. Hopefully we will see more from them this year.

El-Gonzo Jackson
08-31-2009, 10:00 AM
Sweed has the #3 job and made some great catches in traffic this preseason.

Mendenhall looks like everything he was touted on draft day. He's a solid RB that hits the hole and gets north-south, who is also a solid receiver. Just need to see some wiggle in the hole.

AllD
08-31-2009, 03:46 PM
Throw Sweed the ball all game against Carolina. The more reps he gets the better he will play.

Like hand the ball to Mendy and throw it to him out of the backfield. The more reps he gets the more comfortable he will be.

steeltheone
08-31-2009, 04:44 PM
Sweed has the #3 job and made some great catches in traffic this preseason.

Mendenhall looks like everything he was touted on draft day. He's a solid RB that hits the hole and gets north-south, who is also a solid receiver. Just need to see some wiggle in the hole.

I have yet to see what this touted NUMBER 1 pick has shown. Every yard he made the hole was ten foot wide. Not his fault. But he still has not been impressive. I hope this changes. I'm rooting for him. But i call them as i see them. impressive ..no.....ok ...yes. Sweed on the other hand was very impressive......Go Steelers!!

sharkweek
08-31-2009, 06:59 PM
Its hard to run anywhere when you're hit immediately at the line. Teams always stack the run against the Steelers because everyone knows we love to stuff it down their throats. Of course, with our offense becoming ever more prolific with the passing attack, teams will have to play more honestly against our offense and that should create opportunities for the ground game to break open more solid runs.

All in good time. The Bills stacked their D against our ground game and we merely beat them 17-0 with several great passing plays. I'll take that all season long even if it means the league's statistically worst rushing attack.

Shoes
08-31-2009, 07:07 PM
Sweed has the #3 job and made some great catches in traffic this preseason.

Mendenhall looks like everything he was touted on draft day. He's a solid RB that hits the hole and gets north-south, who is also a solid receiver. Just need to see some wiggle in the hole.

El, you keep posting what I was thinking :chuckle:

STEELTOWNBEATDOWN
08-31-2009, 11:28 PM
Rashard looks like he progressing, but he still seems a little nervous about his shoulder when he is running. He will get over it soon, and Sweed will be pushing hines for playing time this year. If he keeps progressing at this rate, watch out. Sweed is a dangerous weapon and he needs to be on the field IMO.

GBMelBlount
08-31-2009, 11:43 PM
Sweed has the #3 job and made some great catches in traffic this preseason.

Mendenhall looks like everything he was touted on draft day. He's a solid RB that hits the hole and gets north-south, who is also a solid receiver. Just need to see some wiggle in the hole.

As always, I respect your opinion El Gonzo, but I am not a Mendy fan yet.