When I read today on ESPN.com that Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson had said that when he’s healthy running back Rashard Mendenhall would resume duties as the Steelers starting running back, I cringed. Not because I think he’s a bad player, but because you just don’t upset momentum like the Steelers have.
The Steelers have been on a great roll. They’ve won 3 games in a row, are heading into a very winnable home game against the struggling Kansas City Chiefs, and are looking more and more every week like one of the top teams in the AFC. And a significant part of that has been on a new found running game that is showing power and execution.
So, why having said all that, why on Earth would the Steelers chose to disrupt all that chemistry and momentum the team is building by tossing in a running back with exactly 19 carries on the season. Mendenhall was returning to the team after suffering a torn ACL and most wondered if he’d play at all this season. But the Steelers brought him back, perhaps too soon, and after one game he’s been sidelined again.
I said in my preview of the season that I didn’t think Mendenhall would get a carry this year. I am 19 off as of right now, but with the style that running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman run with and how that works with the Steelers offensive line, the notion of just wedging a dinged up back into a group that is working with so much momentum really worries me. It would be a different issue is the running game was still wallowing like it was early in the season. But Mendenhall’s style adds a totally different dynamic to the run game. That on it’s own isn’t a bad thing, and I have no problem working him in as a change of pace.
But anointing him the feature back could be a disaster. But I get it. Mendenhall is listed as questionable for this week, but if there was a game to see what you have with him, it might be this week against the Chiefs. The following weeks go Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and then Ravens again. I am going to keep faith in the Steelers coaching staff that even if they do inject him back into the starting lineup they will recognize quickly if it’s not working and make a change. The season is too important not to.
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