View Full Version : Quite a 'Hall

10-06-2009, 07:42 AM
Quite a 'Hall
By: Mike Bires -
Beaver County Times

Tuesday October 6, 2009 12:04 AM

PHOTO BY SLY WASHINGTON JR 10/4//09 this is steele's mendenhall


It is time to start Rashard Mendenhall, and that is not a knee-jerk reaction based on one performance.

All Mendenhall did Sunday night by running over the Chargers was prove what the Steelers’ coaches and scouts have known all along: This kid, who’s only 22, has what it takes to be a star in the NFL.

It’s been a trying process so far. Fumbling problems last summer during the preseason. A broken shoulder that ended his rookie season after four games. Public humiliation last week when coach Mike Tomlin didn’t give Mendenhall any carries in Cincinnati after a poor week of practice.

But the 165-yard effort Sunday night showed what Mendenhall can do for the Steelers now and in the future.

Willie Parker has been a terrific success story since making the team in 2004 as an undrafted rookie. But at this moment, Mendenhall is the better overall running back.

Mendenhall doesn’t like being called a “big back.” But he ran with both speed and power in his second pro start. He was able to burst through holes, break tackles and, on his second short touchdown run, plow through a defensive back for the score. He even blasted a blitzing linebacker on one play with a ferocious block.

Granted, gashing through the Chargers is something Parker did twice last year. Parker gained 115 yards in a regular-season game and 146 more in the playoffs. And it should be noted that the Chargers’ run defense ranks 28th in the league after four weeks this season.

When the Steelers drafted Mendenhall last year, it was assumed he’d be the perfect change-of-pace complement to Parker. Well, maybe it would be better if it’s Parker who comes off the bench.
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Before Mendenhall, the last time the Steelers drafted a running back in the first round was Tim Worley in 1989. But he lasted just more than three seasons with the Steelers and retired after five games into his fifth year.

Before Worley, the last running back drafted by the Steelers in the first round was Walter Abercrombie in 1982. He had an unspectacular career that ended five games into his seventh season.

The point is that most NFL backs don’t last long — even the ones expected to have successful careers.

In his sixth season, Parker clearly isn’t the same back he was when he rushed for more than 1,200 yards from 2005-07. He’s showing signs of wear and tear. Since breaking his leg in the 15th game of the 2007 season, he’s missed eight of the Steelers’ last 23 games.

Last year, he had knee and shoulder injuries that kept him out of five games. This year, he was bothered by a hamstring pull during training camp and missed Sunday night’s game with a turf toe injury.

When Bill Cowher coached the Steelers, he used to always say that an injured player would get his starting job back once he returned from injury regardless of how well his replacement played. But that changed in 2004 when rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took over for good, even when Tommy Maddox returned from an elbow injury.

Roethlisberger is now a star.

Maybe the same will hold true if Mendenhall becomes a full-time first-stringer starting Sunday in Detroit.

Mike Bires can be reached at mbires@timesonline.com

10-06-2009, 07:45 AM
It is time to start Rashard Mendenhall, and that is not a knee-jerk reaction based on one performance.

Really? Because I could've sworn that I read another local Pittsburgh media pundit say last week that Mendenhall and Sweed were doing their damnedest to prove that the Steelers' 2008 draft class was a complete bust. :coffee: