View Full Version : Mendenhall shows what he can do

01-24-2011, 12:05 AM
Mendenhall shows what he can do
By Kevin Gorman
Monday, January 24, 2011

Rashard Mendenhall stood on a makeshift stage at Heinz Field with Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, the star running backs for the 1970s Super Bowl Steelers, and wondered how he got there.

"It means a lot that they asked me to come up there," Mendenhall said. "I'm looking around like, 'Why isn't Troy or Hines or somebody up here?' "

After being ripped for running laterally, for relying too heavily upon a spin move and for not being a "big-time back," Mendenhall upstaged the New York Jets in the biggest game of his NFL career. He accounted for 153 yards of total offense -- including 95 rushing and 32 receiving in the first half -- to help the Steelers to a 24-19 victory Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

"It's one game away from the Super Bowl; who wouldn't be running the way he did?" right guard Ramon Foster said. "He did a phenomenal job of running and holding onto the ball. He was very powerful and well-deserving of the game he had."

When the Steelers needed him most, Mendenhall used all of his perceived weaknesses to his advantage. Just as easily he reversed field, the running back might have done the same to his reputation by rushing for 121 yards on 27 carries and catching two passes for 32 yards.

Mendenhall's first-half play in the home finale was almost as memorable as his overtime heroics in the season opener, when he ripped off a 50-yard touchdown run to clinch an overtime victory against Atlanta.

After Mendenhall finished with 46 rushing yards on 20 carries and lost a fumble against Baltimore in the AFC divisional playoffs last week, Sports Illustrated's Peter King ripped Mendenhall, chastising him for running laterally by saying, "Get upfield, man." King added: "I think Rashard Mendenhall, two touchdowns and all Saturday, is just not a big-time back."

"I don't get too much into that," Mendenhall said. "People are going to say good things and bad things about you. I try to keep it as normal and steady as possible."

Mendenhall was that and more in the first half, outshining Jets backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, who combined for 5 yards on four carries and didn't catch a pass.

Mendenhall gained 28 yards on eight carries on the Steelers' first drive, bouncing outside for 2 yards to pick up a first down and then cutting inside on the next play for an 8-yard gain. He gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead by slipping through the arms of linebacker Bart Scott to score on a 1-yard run at 5:54 of the first quarter.

"He did a great job," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "It starts up front, with our line, and I'm sure Rashard would say the same thing. He ran really hard and found a lot of holes there. When there wasn't, he found ways to just get 1 or 2 yards and kept plugging away."

Kevin Gorman can be reached at kgorman@tribweb.com or 412-320-7812.

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