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Thread: Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom

      
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    Default Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom

    Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom

    By Mark Kaboly, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Tuesday, February 1, 2011
    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_720712.html
    About the writer
    Mark Kaboly can be reached at 412-664-9161 or via via e-mail.

    FORT WORTH, Texas - Franco Harris is the Steelers' all-time leading rusher and a Hall of Famer. Jerome Bettis is second on the list and could join Harris in Canton by the end of the week.

    The two faces of the Steelers franchise when it comes to the running game have something else in common: They are extremely impressed with what 23-year-old Rashard Mendenhall has done in his first season as the team's full-time starting running back.

    "I take my hat off to him this year," Harris said. "He has worked with a patchwork line all year, and that is a tough thing to do and be successful doing it."

    Despite the obstacle of having four different starters along the offensive line since minicamp was held eight months ago, Mendenhall has thrived as the Steelers approach Super Bowl XLV.

    He rushed for 1,273 yards in the regular season, which ranked seventh best in franchise history, and his 13 rushing touchdowns were bettered only by Harris' 14 in 1976.

    That's a far cry from Mendenhall getting sidelined early in his rookie season with a broken shoulder, and getting benched for a game against Cincinnati last year for not knowing the playbook.

    Mendenhall has been the model of consistency since, including rushing for 167 yards and three touchdowns in his first two playoff games.

    Only Merrill Hoge has better numbers over the first two playoff games of his Steelers' career; he rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns in 1989.

    "You are witnessing the maturation process in front of your eyes," Bettis said of Mendenhall. "The first year he was struggling to learn to play the position in the NFL, and now he is making a huge impact in games. That is what we have started to witness."

    Playoff success
    Rashard Mendenhall's first playoff experience has been a success, even when compared to how some of the Steelers all-time rushers performed in their first two playoff games:

    Player Season Att. Yards TD

    Merrill Hoge 1989 32 220 2
    Rashard Mendenhall 2010 47 167 2
    Jerome Bettis 1995 38 145 0
    Franco Harris 1972 34 140 0
    Willie Parker 2005 33 97 0

    On the field, Mendenhall credits his success to hard work. Off the field, he said Bettis and Harris had much to do with how he changed his ways of being a professional.

    "Talking to Franco, talking to Jerome, I have learned a lot like how to carry yourself," Mendenhall said.

    The three have talked about issues ranging from on- and off-field comportment, handling the spotlight and taking care of your body.

    "All of this is passed down as you go along being a member of the Steelers," said Mendenhall, who looked up to Bettis while growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. "It is kind of your responsibility to do that, being a Steelers running back."

    Mendenhall may be a more complete running back than Harris and Bettis. He has proven to be one of the best all-purpose runners in the NFL.

    He stays on the field for all three downs; he's adept in picking up blitzes; he can catch the ball out of the backfield; and maybe most telling of all, he can run away from defenders or run over them.

    "He is explosive, he can hit the home run ball and he has great footwork," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "I thought Jerome had great feet for his size, but I look at some of the cuts Mendenhall is doing and, wow, this guy is real special."

    Mendenhall had 15 runs of 15 yards or more during the regular season, but really showed his versatility in the AFC Championship Game against the New York Jets. He ripped off a 35-yard run not long after plowing through Bart Scott for a 1-yard touchdown run.

    That series of plays impressed Bettis.

    "The league is going in the direction of bigger backs (who) also have the ability to be a game-breaker," Bettis said. "That's what Rashard has. He runs with a lot of power. It is the best of both worlds for him because he has the power, but he also has the speed to get outside and make a big play."

    Against Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers' style of attacking defense, big plays are readily available. The Packers allowed 10 runs of 20 yards or longer this year.

    "He is doing everything it takes to be a great running back," Bettis said. "He is well on his way to being there."


    Read more: Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...#ixzz1ClCAGufI

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    Default Re: Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom

    Honestly I expected more out of him this year. Not that he had a bad year or anything I just thought he would have an amazing year. Maybe it's the O-line? He is probably unknown outside of Pittsburgh still though. Maybe not any of his fault just a lot of other stars casting shadows.

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    Default Re: Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom

    As much as I hate to mix fantasy with reality, but #34 was consistent this season as a fantasy RB. I too expected a bit more out of him, but I think his performance in the AFCCG was impressive to say the least... and most definately a "breakout" type game!

    One thing I didnt realize was this:
    Quote Originally Posted by WYsteel View Post
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    his 13 rushing touchdowns were bettered only by Harris' 14 in 1976.
    Especially considering the stack of Media Guides next to my ****ter
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    I'll say he did well this year. I am a big fan. My expectations where probably unrealistic. I thought he would put himself in the conversation of best rb. Not quite but that's ok.

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    Default Re: Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom

    Quote Originally Posted by Beezy View Post
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    I'll say he did well this year. I am a big fan. My expectations where probably unrealistic. I thought he would put himself in the conversation of best rb. Not quite but that's ok.
    Well, he still has a chance to make a name for himself on the biggest stage in the world... knaaa mean? (-do you know what I mean?-)
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    Default Re: Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom

    Quote Originally Posted by Bton66 View Post
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    Well, he still has a chance to make a name for himself on the biggest stage in the world... knaaa mean? (-do you know what I mean?-)
    Absolutely.

    I do think he is going to be key in this one. If the Steelers can win the TOP via Mendy's feet then I think they win this SOB.

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    Default Re: Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom

    Quote Originally Posted by Beezy View Post
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    Absolutely.

    I do think he is going to be key in this one. If the Steelers can win the TOP via Mendy's feet then I think they win this SOB.
    totally agree. I would rather them burn off 8 min on the clock running the ball with mendy on a long drive than doing a bomb to Wallace. I really think that first drive against the jets was one of the keys to the game. I actually hope we lost the toss pack defers and we get ball first and score on at least a 7 min drive.

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    Default Re: Steelers' Mendenhall on cusp of stardom

    Posted Feb. 02, 2011
    By Dan Arkush

    Hereís a look at a key matchup heading into the Super Bowl XLV showdown between the Packers and the Steelers Sunday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

    Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall vs. Packers LB corps

    The Packersí run defense, which has allowed only 3.6 yards per carry in the postseason after allowing almost a full yard more in the regular season (4.7), must do a much better job handling Mendenhall than the Jetsí third-ranked run defense did in the AFC title game. The 5-10, 225-pound former first-round draft pick cranked out 121 yards and a one-yard TD on 27 carries against the Jets, despite the fact that Steelers rookie Pro Bowl C Maurkice Pouncey suffered a game-ending ankle injury on the contestís first drive.

    In the regular season, Mendenhall was the AFCís fifth-leading rusher with 1,273 yards on 324 carries (3.9 ypc) and 13 TDs, which tied him for second in the league with New Englandís BenJarvus Green-Ellis in rushing scores behind Houstonís Arian Foster (16). The third-year pro has seven rushing TDs in his last five games (counting the playoffs) and is the favorite to score the first TD in Super Bowl XLV at 5-1 odds, according to Luckyís Race & Sports Book in Las Vegas.

    A powerful runner who has become much more patient than he was a year ago, when he tried to bounce outside too much, Mendenhall has a wicked spin move that could cause big problems for Green Bayís LB corps if itís not careful. His 27 carries against the Jets were preceded by six games (counting Pittsburghís postseason opener vs. the Ravens) in which he averaged 17.6 carries per game. Mendenhall had three 100-yard rushing performances during the regular season and one 99-yard effort, but he did not make a major impact as a receiver out of the backfield (23 catches for 167 yards and zero TDs).

    The Packers allowed only six rushing TDs during the regular season (third-best in the league) and have given up only 69.7 rushing yards per game in the postseason. Mendenhall must make sure he hangs on to the ball up against the likes of Green Bay LBs Clay Matthews (two forced fumbles during the regular season), Desmond Bishop (two forced fumbles during the regular season; one in the postseason) and Erik Walden (one in the postseason) or Frank Zombo (two in the regular season).

    Bishop, who was Green Bayís second-leading tackler during the regular season with 121 behind fellow ILB A.J. Hawk, is the Packersí leading tackler in the postseason with 21. The unselfish Hawk, who had five games with double-digit tackles during the regular season, has done a solid job this season calling signals for the defense. Check the status of Walden, who left the NFC title game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Even if Walden is able to suit up on Super Sunday, itís quite possible he could end up sharing the load at right outside linebacker with Zombo, who figures to be feeling pretty frisky after missing the last six games (counting playoffs) with a knee injury.

    http://www.profootballweekly.com/201...-day-wednesday

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