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Old 09-26-2010, 10:26 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' ground game going strong through first two games

Steelers' ground game going strong through first two games
By John Harris
Sunday, September 26, 2010

Running back Rashard Mendenhall is fourth in the NFL and third in the AFC in rushing. Mendenhall has rushed 45 times for 189 yards (4.2 average) and a 50-yard touchdown.

He has accounted for 78 percent of the Steelers' running plays. As a team, the Steelers rank No. 10 in rushing and they're tied for first in the league with three runs over 20 yards.

Facing quarterback issues and playing with an offensive line that opened the season with three new starters, the Steelers average 10.5 more rushes than pass attempts. That's the largest run-pass disparity for the Steelers since they averaged 10.6 more runs than passes in 2005.

Passing numbers suffering

On the other hand, the Steelers rank No. 31 in passing next to last. The Steelers average 116.0 passing yards compared with 124.5 rushing yards.

Those numbers figure to increase when Ben Roethlisberger returns Oct. 17 against Cleveland. But the Steelers clearly haven't found a suitable replacement for Santonio Holmes, who drew double teams that freed Hines Ward and Mike Wallace for big plays.

The Steelers also rank No. 31 in total offense. Of the eight teams with 2-0 records, the Steelers and Houston are the only teams that rank as low as No. 31 in total offense or defense. To compensate, the Steelers rank No. 6 in total defense and the Texans rank No. 1 in total offense.

Defense looking stout

About that defense. The Steelers rank No. 4 against the run and No. 17 against the pass.

Lawrence Timmons is third in the NFL and tops all linebackers with 26 tackles. Timmons also has one forced fumble, one quarterback pressure and one special teams tackle.

Linebacker James Harrison leads the team with three sacks, safety Troy Polamalu leads with two interceptions and defensive end Aaron Smith has a team-high five quarterback pressures.

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