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Old 08-23-2009, 12:11 AM   #1
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Default Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...s_639673.html#
By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, August 23, 2009

LANDOVER, Md. The Steelers broke training camp last week with a host of unanswered questions.

Among the most pressing is whether Rashard Mendenhall is ready to provide a spark to a running game that ranked just 23rd in the NFL last season.

And whether he is able to team with Willie Parker and give the Steelers their first legitimate 1-2 punch at running back since Jerome Bettis side-stepped his way into retirement.

"We know what Willie is," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said last week. "If Rashard proves to be a real (No. 2 back) we'll do it. If he doesn't, then he'll spell (Parker). We'll just see how that goes."

Parker and Mendenhall got all of the work at running back in the first half of Saturday night's preseason game against the Washington Redskins, and both experienced some success.

Parker scored the first touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run and finished with 13 yards on four carries. Mendenhall rushed for 26 yards on five carries at FedEx Field.

With two preseason games remaining and almost three weeks of practice before the start of the regular season, it is too early to tell how prominent of a role Mendenhall will play in the offense.

But he got rave reviews from running backs coach Kirby Wilson for his performance in the Steelers' preseason opener Aug. 13 following a film review of the game.

Parker said he has noticed a significant change in Mendenhall compared to last season when the latter was feeling his way through the NFL landscape before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in late September.

"He's more comfortable, he's more patient this year," Parker said. "He's got something on his mind this year. I see him in the weight room each and every day so he's ready for the season."

If the Steelers are hopeful that Mendenhall emerges this season, it is not just because they invested a first-round draft pick in 2008 on the former Illinois star. Parker broke down physically last season after averaging 329 carries in 2006-07, and lightening his workload could preserve the two-time Pro Bowl runner this season and beyond.

"History shows that if you get 300 carries for three or four years," Arians said, "your career ends quick."

That rationale helps explain the trend of teams using multiple backs to power their running game, something Tennessee has successfully done with Chris Johnson and LenDale White.

The challenge for offensive coordinators when there is a two-back rotation is making sure both players get enough work to keep them effective -- and happy.

"I hate taking them in and taking them out because they get out of the flow of the game," Arians said.

When asked if Parker would be happy splitting time at running back, Arians said, "I doubt it." But, he added, "it will help him in the long run."

Parker, who is entering the final year of his contract, said at the start of training camp that he would welcome yielding some of his carries. He didn't seem quite as receptive to the idea last week.

"It is what it is, and we'll leave it at that," Parker said.

Parker has been working on becoming a bigger part of the offense and most notably in the passing game.

Parker has spent extra time catching passes from Wilson during practices dating to the offseason. And the Steelers seem intent on getting him more involved in the passing game after he had just three receptions last season.

Parker had averaged 24 receptions a season from 2005-07.

"If you get him out in space," Arians said, "that's where he's at his best."

Mendenhall is also a receiving threat out of the backfield, and he may be better equipped to pound the ball between the tackles since the 5-10, 225-pounder is a little thicker than Parker.

"They say it's one of my positives my inside running game, the reads and the instincts," Mendenhall said of the Steelers coaches.

Mendenhall gained just 24 yards on nine carries in the Steelers' first preseason game. But Wilson said Mendenhall made the correct reads and generally did what he could with limited running room.

Yards came a little easier last night for Mendenhall. Parker, meanwhile, reacquainted himself with the end zone.

Parker had just seven touchdowns the last two seasons combined, so the sixth-year veteran could be forgiven for getting a little excited after he followed Carey Davis around right end and scored easily at the end of the first quarter.

"I want to make that a habit," Parker said of scoring touchdowns. "I want to keep doing it, keep doing it, keep doing it so the coaches don't have any other goal-line set and I'll be the goal-line guy."

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


Images and text copyright 2009 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Reproduction or reuse prohibited without written consent fro
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Old 08-23-2009, 07:02 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

I also thought that Mendenhall looked better last night. Seems like he was hitting the holes quicker and not dancing around as much. I think he will be ok.
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Old 08-23-2009, 07:28 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

Whats all the hubbub? It's only preseason.
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:02 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

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Originally Posted by mesaSteeler View Post

"We know what Willie is," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said last week.

"History shows that if you get 300 carries for three or four years," Arians said, "your career ends quick."

The challenge for offensive coordinators when there is a two-back rotation is making sure both players get enough work to keep them effective -- and happy.

"I hate taking them in and taking them out because they get out of the flow of the game," Arians said.

When asked if Parker would be happy splitting time at running back, Arians said, "I doubt it." But, he added, "it will help him in the long run."

Parker, welcomes yielding some of his carries. He didn't seem quite as receptive to the idea last week. "It is what it is, and we'll leave it at that," Parker said.

Parker has been working on becoming a bigger part of the offense and most notably in the passing game. Steelers seem intent on getting Parker more involved in the passing game after he had just three receptions last season.

"If you get him out in space," Arians said, "that's where he's at his best."

"I want to make that a habit," Parker said of scoring touchdowns. "I want to keep doing it, keep doing it, keep doing it so the coaches don't have any other goal-line set and I'll be the goal-line guy."

These quotes sound like Parker wants to do everything... and

Arians doesnt know what to do with the other RB's and Fullbacks. Just play Parker..
and his side kick Mendenhall...
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:07 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

Mendenhall still didn't do much to impress me. I guess he made the right reads, and hit the hole quick, but I haven't seen any great moves or broken tackles from him. He has 2 more games to impress.
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:53 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

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Mendenhall still didn't do much to impress me. I guess he made the right reads, and hit the hole quick, but I haven't seen any great moves or broken tackles from him. He has 2 more games to impress.
He made a great spin move in the hole and then ran over a guy to pick up a 3rd and short last night. I think he looked pretty good. Been a while since a back averaged 5.2 yards per carry on the Steelers.
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:55 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

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These quotes sound like Parker wants to do everything... and

Arians doesnt know what to do with the other RB's and Fullbacks. Just play Parker..
and his side kick Mendenhall...
You really need to cut the crap already and stop hijacking EVERY thread with the "Arians sucks" BS. This thread has NOTHING to do with Arians.
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:06 PM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

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You really need to cut the crap already and stop hijacking EVERY thread with the "Arians sucks" BS. This thread has NOTHING to do with Arians.
A-fookin-MEN!

Dude really needs to use that woodie he has for Arians in a more "productive" fashion.
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:58 PM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

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Originally Posted by mesaSteeler View Post
"We know what Willie is," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said last week. "If Rashard proves to be a real (No. 2 back) we'll do it. If he doesn't, then he'll spell (Parker). We'll just see how that goes."
i don't get Arians quote

we'll do what?

isn't Mendenhall spelling Parker no matter what?

none of the 1-2 punches get exactly the same # of carries. Parker will get more carries than Mendenhall right?
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Old 08-23-2009, 07:05 PM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers leaning on Parker, Mendenhall

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i don't get Arians quote

we'll do what?

isn't Mendenhall spelling Parker no matter what?

none of the 1-2 punches get exactly the same # of carries. Parker will get more carries than Mendenhall right?
It sounded pretty clear to me. If Mendenhall is for real he and Parker will be splitting carries, not Mendenhall spelling Parker.
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