View Full Version : Harris: Steelers' Mendenhall needs to seize starting opportunity

10-26-2009, 11:41 PM
Harris: Steelers' Mendenhall needs to seize starting opportunity
By John Harris
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm not an agitator, just curious.

Curious minds want to know why Rashard Mendenhall won't take the Steelers' starting job and run with it.

Why doesn't Mendenhall protect the football, especially around the goal line?

Why does he shy away from contact despite weighing a muscular 225 pounds?

Every time Mendenhall fumbles or doesn't take a defender head-on, I'm reminded that he slipped to the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

He was projected to go much higher, which is why the Steelers didn't hesitate drafting him even though they didn't personally interview him or dig deeply into his background because never in their wildest imagination did they think he would be there.

The "hot hand" that coach Mike Tomlin said last week kept Mendenhall ahead of Willie Parker on the depth chart cooled off considerably against Minnesota.

If Parker gets healthy, things could become interesting.

Clearly, Tomlin likes Mendenhall enough to start him as Parker continues to struggle with turf toe. Tomlin, however, won't tolerate fumbling.

For the second consecutive week, Tomlin benched Mendenhall after a key fumble. Sitting Mendenhall against Cleveland was no big deal; the Steelers had that game in hand. But with the game on the line in the fourth quarter against Minnesota, Mendenhall was on the bench despite averaging a whopping 6.9 yards on 10 carries.

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin went through the same thing with Tiki Barber, a notorious fumbler who developed better ball security once he changed how he carried the ball.

Mendenhall has only played in 11 NFL games. It's too early to judge his body of work.

"The young fellow fumbled, and every time he puts a helmet on, it's a learning experience for him," said Tomlin, who reiterated that Mendenhall will start Nov. 9 against the Denver Broncos.

Mewelde Moore carried three times for eight yards on the Steelers' final possession. On second-and-4, Moore was dropped for a 2-yard loss. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked on the next play, and the Steelers were forced to punt holding a 20-17 lead.

Moore does a better job of securing the football, but he doesn't scare defenses the way Mendenhall does.

Tomlin is high on Mendenhall's potential; he just doesn't trust him late in games.

It's the Steelers' version of Catch-22.

Mendenhall averages 5.4 yards per carry and has four rushing touchdowns this season. Parker averages 3.1 yards per carry and has no rushing touchdowns. Mendenhall has out-gained Parker by 231 yards with only 18 more carries.

When I wrote prior to the third game of the season against Cincinnati that the Steelers should run Mendenhall more and Parker less, I believed it was Mendenhall's time because of his upside, fresh legs and Parker finally showing his age.

I still feel that way. But it wasn't until Mendenhall got some carries under his belt that his strengths emerged along with his weaknesses.

Mendenhall hits the hole faster and harder than Parker does. But Parker, even though he prefers taking it outside, is a more willing runner between the tackles. Ironically, Parker's willingness to mix it up inside contributed to some of his injuries.

Mendenhall is a big back who runs like a scatback.

Mendenhall isn't Jerome Bettis, but it's still early in his pro career. Maybe he'll eventually grow into becoming more comfortable running inside as Bettis did.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

10-27-2009, 08:28 AM
If he dont start holding onto the ball he wont be seeing it much.

10-27-2009, 08:56 AM
He doesn't fumble and the Steelers drive in for 7 points and you are looking at an entirely different 4th quarter ending. He has to hold on to the ball.

10-27-2009, 09:14 AM
He has seized the opportunity. Running backs fumble...it happens.

This kid is essentially a rookie. He is the best RB we have right now. He averaged 6.9 yards a carry. He can only produce when his number is called.

I'm very happy with his progress this year.

10-27-2009, 09:16 AM
He doesn't fumble and the Steelers drive in for 7 points and you are looking at an entirely different 4th quarter ending. He has to hold on to the ball.

yeah, Harvin returns the kickoff to the house 5 minutes earlier.


10-27-2009, 09:27 AM
I seem to recall Ben doing his share of fumbling or throwing picks and no one getting all bent out of shape and calling for him to be benched.
Mendenhall was trying to make a play. He'll be okay. Get off his back.

10-27-2009, 09:35 AM
Ya hes a rookie and CAN and hopefully WILL get better at holding the ball.
When Parker fumbles (which he does too) at least he gets some carries after to try and redeem himself.
At this poiint I would be happy to give Mendenhall the majority of the carries, with Moore sprinkled in as well.
Would never question coach T and I understand the move to Moore aftre the fumble, but giving Mendenhall the rock after a fumble is a good way to judge what you got... someone who learns frok his mistakes.... or someone who cannot get past them... jsut my 2 cents..

10-27-2009, 09:41 AM
He needs to learn to carry the ball better, yes. He tends to run with it in his hand, and his arm out to the side. This habit WILL BE ADDRESSED, take it to the bank. But overall, I'm happy we have him and I believe he will learn from his mistakes. He definitely catches the ball better than Willie ever did.

10-27-2009, 10:24 AM
yeah, he sux cut him:rolleyes:

10-27-2009, 10:31 AM
I seem to recall Ben doing his share of fumbling or throwing picks and no one getting all bent out of shape and calling for him to be benched.

That's because overall he hasn't really had a bad game yet this season. He's also among the league leaders in passing yards which is all the chuckleheads who only give a shit about fantasy football stats care about, so that's another reason they've stayed off his back so far. Check a few threads from last season. Here's a couple to get you started.



One nimrod even went so far as to suggest that Ben should have been benched in favor of Leftwich (yeah, the same guy that couldn't hold onto the starting job in TB this year) right before the playoffs started. Have patience, the Ben bashers WILL be out very vociferously in force if he plays poorly and truly has a bad game.

10-27-2009, 11:38 AM
The lateral was Mendenhall trying to do the extra thing for the team. The effort is there, he just needs to hold onto the ball and be patient.

10-27-2009, 11:39 AM
Um, Mendenhall just averaged 7 yards a carry against the Vikings' run defense. He has some fumbling issues but he sure as hell is taking advantage of the extra carries.

10-27-2009, 02:33 PM
How is he not seizeing the moment? 69yds on 10 carries..? I think it was a stretch of games in 07 when Willie Parker fumbled three times or it might have been one game against Cincy. He was not benched, I think he said it was the rubber arm sleeves he was wearing.