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Old 10-07-2009, 04:48 AM   #1
Galax Steeler
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Default On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: http:/

Wednesday, October 07, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

You might need to refer to your fraction multiplication table for this one, but what do you get when you have a quarterback controversy times two?

A halfback controversy.

Mike Tomlin would seem to have one on his hands this week as he decides whether to start Willie Parker or Rashard Mendenhall, not that it is a bad thing. Quarterback controversies can split a locker room in two; halfback controversies like this one usually do not.

Parker, the veteran starter, missed the 38-28 victory against San Diego at Heinz Field Sunday night because of turf toe, and Rashard Mendenhall climbed from behind Tomlin's curtain and performed his Franco Harris impersonation. Mendenhall ran a workhorse 29 times for 165 yards, scored on both chances at the goal line, caught two passes for 26 yards and blocked like Dan Kreider.

He became only the sixth Steeler to rush for at least 165 yards and two touchdowns in the same game since 1970.

Parker should be healthy Sunday, even if Tomlin would not commit to that. The Steelers sent that message Monday when they released halfback Isaac Redman and replaced him with defensive end Nick Eason.

Tomlin gave a wonderfully worded answer when he was asked who might start at halfback if Parker were healthy.

"We hadn't pondered the division of labor to this point," Tomlin said. "I think the most important thing is we find out the level of availability of Willie, and then we'll make that determination, but, at this point, the ball is in Rashard's hands until we get further information in regards to Willie Parker."

That covers all his bases, no matter what.

Many Steelers coaches over the years have used a starter's injury to keep another player in the lineup long after the starter's ailment cleared. It happened famously with quarterback Bubby Brister in 1991, when an injury to him prompted Chuck Noll to start Neil O'Donnell, and then keep him there even though Brister's injury had healed. Brister smoldered until he finally refused to go into a game in Houston in relief of O'Donnell with the Steelers hopelessly behind. The following week, Brister started, won the final two games, and Noll retired.

Before Parker's injury, before Mendenhall's poor study habits, the coaching staff went into the season with a design: Parker starts and plays two series, Mendenhall the third, and they would continue that rotation throughout the game.

Mendenhall's benching in Chicago changed that, and Parker's injury changed it the other way.

Now it is up to Tomlin. Do you go with the veteran who has proven it over a number of years or with the hot hand who just happened to be your first-round draft choice in 2008 with an eye exactly toward this moment?
Polamalu's return up in air

Troy Polamalu's return to the lineup remains as ambiguous as the starting halfback. Polamalu has not played since the MCL in his left knee was sprained in the first half of the opener Sept. 10.

At the time, the prognosis was he would miss three to six weeks.

Later, Polamalu said his goal was to return by the game in Detroit, which is Sunday.

"Troy's been doing well and progressing well," Tomlin said.

"He may participate in a limited basis tomorrow in practice with a brace on, just [to] see how he runs around and changes direction. Last week, he ran some in a straight line to pretty solid reviews, so we'll take another step to see where he is. What that means for his game participation is unclear to this point."

Tomlin fairly acknowledged that his defense, which has allowed 45 points in the fourth quarters of the past three games, is not the same without his Pro Bowl strong safety.

"I'm not going to dispute that, but, at the same time I'm not going to use that as an excuse."
Foote on their mind

Was that Larry Foote or Jack Lambert the Steelers' coach praised on and on and on yesterday?

"Of course, we all know that he's a top-quality player and person, high-character guy and great leader for those guys. They seem to be molding well under his leadership."

As for Foote's possible knowledge of the Steelers' signals and schemes, Tomlin answered, "I'm more concerned about his playmaking ability. This guy's a good football player. He made a bunch of plays for them. And, if I know Larry, he'll provide some good WWE talk prior to the game, but he'll always step into the stadium ready to back it up. We like Larry. Got a great deal of respect for him."

The follow-up to that then is why did the Steelers release him right after the draft?

"For a lot of reasons," Tomlin answered, "most importantly is our growth and development at that position and feelings regarding Lawrence Timmons."

That is the first time they have publicly acknowledged that. It also was coupled with Foote's $3 million salary and the linebacker's intuitiveness to demand to be released in April rather than wait to be asked by them later to take a paycut. He preferred to be treated like Joey Porter, who was released before March 2007, so he could latch on elsewhere and practice with his new team.
Hot starts for Miller, Ward

Some things you might know, some you might not:

Tight end Heath Miller, second on the team with 24 receptions, is on pace to catch 96 passes, far and away more than any tight end in club history. If he did that, he might even make the Pro Bowl. He also leads the team with two touchdown catches.

Safety Ryan Clark (lower back strain), offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu (left ankle) and backup linebacker Andre Frazier (shoulder separation) have minor injuries that might limit them in practice. Tight end David Johnson, out since his ankle was injured vs. Cincinnati, should return.

Hines Ward is off to a fast and slow start. He leads the team with 26 catches and 355 yards, but this is the longest he has gone into a season without scoring since 2000.

Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to be sacked less than he has been in any of the previous three seasons. He has been sacked 10 times, on pace for 40

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09280/1003510-66.stm
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Old 10-07-2009, 08:22 AM   #2
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: ht

Ben's on track for only 40 sacks this season... must be the O lines fault! (read: sarcasm) ... LOL!

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Old 10-07-2009, 08:28 AM   #3
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: ht

What does it REALLY matter who starts the game? The Steelers are very fortunate to have 2 very capable backs and each has their own "personality". Utilize both of 'em early and often!
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Old 10-07-2009, 09:20 AM   #4
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: ht

The only way it's going to create a controversy is if Willie has to set out longer than 2-3 games and our running attack gains momentum in that time period. However, one also needs to look at the defenses on the schedule. I'll be more impressed if the running attack continues against teams like the vikings, broncos, ravens, and packers type defenses.
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Old 10-07-2009, 09:57 AM   #5
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: ht

Quote:
Originally Posted by stlrtruck View Post
The only way it's going to create a controversy is if Willie has to set out longer than 2-3 games and our running attack gains momentum in that time period. However, one also needs to look at the defenses on the schedule. I'll be more impressed if the running attack continues against teams like the vikings, broncos, ravens, and packers type defenses.
Controversy in the media only.

I knew some chucklehead would write this story. I called it on Sunday, before the game.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lamberts-lost-tooth
I think Mendenhall has a better than average chance of running for over 100 yards...(due to Williams being out of the lineup)...and we will have a "controversy" over who should start next week
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Old 10-07-2009, 09:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: ht

Starting Mendenhall is a no brainer. You don't bench a guy who just ran for 165 and scored two TDs. Parker is going to have to wait until Mendy fumbles or gets shut down.

Even though ward hasn't scored, he is playing as well as he ever has. He is getting double covered and his TDs are going to Miller and Moore.
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Old 10-07-2009, 10:07 AM   #7
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: ht

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Originally Posted by HometownGal View Post
What does it REALLY matter who starts the game? The Steelers are very fortunate to have 2 very capable backs and each has their own "personality". Utilize both of 'em early and often!
Agreed.

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Old 10-07-2009, 10:37 AM   #8
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: ht

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllD View Post
Starting Mendenhall is a no brainer. You don't bench a guy who just ran for 165 and scored two TDs. Parker is going to have to wait until Mendy fumbles or gets shut down.
... as it should be!
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Old 10-07-2009, 11:56 AM   #9
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: ht

I love Willie and what he has brought to our team, but I am in the thinking of maybe you go with the hot hand and at this time Mendenhall is the hot hand. That doesnt mean we cut Willie for heavens sake. Just think that Mendenhall has looked very sharp in every opportunity he has had so far.
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Old 10-07-2009, 12:35 PM   #10
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Mendenhall's success creates halfback controversy Read more: ht

I think the kid in Green Bay..Rogers in on pace to be sacked 80s times this season.

He's dead before the season is over.

As for the Running Back...I don't give a flying squirrel crap who's starting, I want them to hit the hole fast and hard and drive their legs forward on every play.

If we can get 150 yards plus on the ground with about 250 in the air, we are good.
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