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Old 09-16-2009, 11:07 PM   #1
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Default Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...s_643552.html#
By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, September 17, 2009

When I asked Steelers second-year running back Rashard Mendenhall if he was excited about returning to Chicago to face his hometown Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, Mendenhall looked at me like I was crazy.

Of course I'm excited, you knucklehead, was my translation of the expression on Mendenhall's face.

Instead, Mendenhall replied politely, all but adding, sir: "Yeah, yeah. Definitely, I'm excited. A lot of people asked me for tickets, but I'm only getting a handful.''

A more important question should be how Mendenhall, the Steelers' first-round draft pick from last season, is utilized against the Bears.

Between Mendenhall appearing sparingly in only four regular-season games as a rookie because of a shoulder injury, Willie's Parker's track record and Mewelde Moore's versatility, the Steelers still don't know what they have in Mendenhall.

That's unusual in the NFL.

Normally, when a team drafts a running back in the first round, he almost always plays right away.

Even if a back doesn't start, he at least gets some carries. By the second season, the team usually has a pretty good idea about the player.

Mendenhall's status remains a question mark.

Is his lack of playing time the result of his injury? Or is he just not ready to carry the load fulltime?

There were eight running backs drafted in the first round between 2005 and '07. All eight were regular contributors by their second season; seven were starters in Year Two. The exception was Carolina's DeAngelo Williams, who became a starter in his third season and rushed for 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Mendenhall was one of five running backs selected in the first round of the 2008 draft. Because of the shoulder injury, he had the lowest number of carries (19) and rushing yards (58) among them.

Mendenhall, the No. 23 player taken in the draft, carried four times for 6 yards against Tennessee in this year's opener. He isn't having the impact of Oakland's Darren McFadden (the No. 4 player drafted), Carolina's Jonathan Stewart (No. 13), Dallas' Felix Jones (No. 22) and Tennessee's Chris Johnson (No. 24).

The fact that Mendenhall is facing two running backs from his draft in the opening two weeks of the season is fodder for debate about how well he stacks up against players selected after him.

Johnson and Chicago's Matt Forte (second-round pick) each rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season, and Johnson made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

As for dealing with his inactivity, Mendenhall replied, "It's real early. I feel good about what I've done to this point. I'm mentally prepared, physically ready to go."

When asked Wednesday if he feels any pressure about not receiving more playing time given where he was drafted, Mendenhall responded positively.

"I try to keep everything as normal as I can, keep everything as my job, showing up and taking care of the things I need to take care of," he said.

Mendenhall said he's improved from his rookie season when, as he was adjusting to the speed of the NFL, he was lost for the year when a Ray Lewis tackle resulted in a broken shoulder.

Second on the depth chart this year behind Parker, Mendenhall lost snaps to Moore against Tennessee when the Steelers switched to a no-huddle, passing attack to compensate for a ground game that produced 36 yards.

"I'm just waiting," Mendenhall said. "As the season goes on and our running game grows, I'm confident that everything will work out."

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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Old 09-16-2009, 11:25 PM   #2
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Default Re: Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

The buring question is how much is Logan gonna be used. I really think if we get him the ball in space on a few screens it will open lanes for the RB's. I hope we start using him more and more.
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Old 09-17-2009, 03:40 AM   #3
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Default Re: Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

I still have faith in Mendenhall we need to give him the ball more then what we have. I think if Parker has trouble running the ball in the first half then we should let Mendenhall have his shot in the second. Lets give him more then 3or 4 carries a game.
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Old 09-17-2009, 08:23 AM   #4
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Default Re: Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

I agree, Mendenhall needs to get his feet wet. He needs to run with reckless abandon and see some success. He really has the potential he just needs more chances.
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Old 09-17-2009, 09:31 AM   #5
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Default Re: Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

We certainly need to give him more than 4 carries. Either the guy can cut it as an NFL running back or he can't. We need to find out.
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Old 09-17-2009, 09:34 AM   #6
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Default Re: Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

This is the week I would give Mendenhall a serious look at RB to see what he can do

Chicago is Mendenhall's hometown, he will probably have a ton of family and friends in the stands
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Old 09-17-2009, 09:42 AM   #7
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Default Re: Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

Parker is done. It is obvious after watching that first game he just doesn't have the burst to hit the edges any more. He can't catch the ball so he is absolutely useless on screens. We need to find out if Mendenhall is the answer or if our first round pick next year needs to be a RB. I am hoping he is the answer so we can work on the Oline exclusively next year in the draft.
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Old 09-17-2009, 09:55 AM   #8
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Default Re: Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

I would like to see Mendenhall get his chances. We still don't know what he can do. Give him a shot.

But instead we keep slamming a grinded down Willie Parker into 8-man defensive fronts.
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Old 09-17-2009, 10:25 AM   #9
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Default Re: Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

Quote:
We need to find out if Mendenhall is the answer or if our first round pick next year needs to be a RB
even if mendenhall is a complete flop, it still doesn't mean wasting the 1st round pick on a RB. OL and DL are in need of talent and/or youth.
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Old 09-17-2009, 10:47 AM   #10
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Default Re: Harris: Mendenhall waiting patiently for increased workload

As long as he's getting just four carries a game, we will never know what we have in him.

Parker doesn't have the speed he had even at times last season. If he is showing nothing, put Mendenhall in and use Moore as a third down back.

Mendenhall caught some balls at Illinois, so use him on screens.

I think he can be one hell of a running back, but he needs to be given the chance.
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