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Old 02-06-2011, 12:16 AM   #1
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Default Mendenhall turns early setbacks into Super lessons

Mendenhall turns early setbacks into Super lessons

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Rashard Mendenhall stood on the sideline during a game last season, bummed about being benched and wondering how he allowed that to happen.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back had a lousy week of practice, and coach Mike Tomlin decided Mendenhall needed to learn a lesson.

"It was kind of a surprise, but at the same time, coach Tomlin is very fair, he's very reasonable,'' Mendenhall recalled. "He let me know exactly what it was. I don't think it was as big as people make it, but that was one of the steps along the way of my growth.''

He was back the next week refocused and unstoppable. Mendenhall stepped in for an injured Willie Parker and ran for a career-high 165 yards and two touchdowns.

"It woke him up a little bit, I think, to the real world,'' offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "You have to prepare Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to play at that level. At (that) Friday's practice, he must have had four mental errors. Mike just sat him down, and it woke him up.''

Mendenhall has been the Steelers' main man in the backfield since, leading a running game that will play a key role for Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.

"He's a young guy who's continually evolving as a player and as a person,'' Tomlin said. "That's one of the things I enjoy about this profession, having an opportunity to be involved with young men who are growing as people and professionals. He's doing that. He has a desire to be great.''

Mendenhall had a breakout third NFL season, finishing fifth in the AFC with 1,273 yards rushing and tying for second in the NFL with 13 touchdowns. He is a major reason the Steelers are here, running for 121 yards in the AFC championship game. It was the most rushing yards the stingy New York Jets allowed this season.

"I think it's up there,'' the soft-spoken Mendenhall said when asked if it was his best game as a pro. "I think for the masses it is, being on a stage like that and the way the game went. For me, I've played a lot of great games.''

And now he gets a chance to play in the biggest of all - an opportunity he missed as a rookie in 2008. Mendenhall broke his shoulder in the fourth game of the season and was placed on injured reserve, making him a spectator while the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.

"I learned a lot from that,'' he said, "but now it's a whole different experience, going through this season and being the lead dog.''

Mendenhall has proven to be a difficult guy to bring down, especially when he gets his legs churning. He says he modeled his game after Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders and Jerome Bettis, taking different aspects of each player's game and incorporating them into his own.

"He's a tough runner who really gets behind his pads and he can change directions well,'' Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. "It's just something where we have to take it upon ourselves, especially up front, to rise to the challenge.''

The Steelers are going to need Mendenhall to help them chew up yardage and the clock against the Packers, just as he has the last several games.

"He's quick and can make any cut from anywhere on the field,'' Green Bay nose tackle Howard Green said. "You've got to be gap conscious and make sure you do your job. If he hits your gap, you better be there to make the play.''

Or, Mendenhall will make them pay.

"With me having the ability to do a lot of different things, whether it's run through somebody or make somebody miss, it makes you really tough to tackle,'' he said. "Then, when I study, I always look at what decisions I made in certain circumstances and why it worked or why it didn't and what I can do better. If I have an angle and I feel like I can outrun somebody, I will. If it doesn't work, the next time I'll try something else.''

Sounds as though he has certainly come a long way from being that guy who was benched last season.

"I've seen a guy who came in as a kid and now a young man who is maturing by leaps and bounds,'' Steelers running back Mewelde Moore said. "He's continuing to get better as a pro and the thing about it is he still has this limitless potential to do great things.''
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Old 02-06-2011, 09:41 AM   #2
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Default Re: Mendenhall turns early setbacks into Super lessons

B-b-b-b-b-b--but Peter King said he wan't a big game back.
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