As I re-watched yesterday’s Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Dallas Cowboys, a lot of things crossed my mind. I ran the gamut of emotions from rage to sadness. But upon a full second viewing one of the things that really stuck out to me is that this team might just need running back Rashard Mendenhall more than I first thought, and if it’s true this is going to really help Mendenhall when it comes time to pay him or not.
When I watched the game live, I was really screaming at the offensive line and their failure to deal with the Cowboys defensive front. But as I watched it again, I can’t put all the problems with this running game on them. The Steelers running backs including Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman had chances to break runs and they couldn’t make the most of it. They missed creases in the Cowboys defense, let themselves be tackled far too easily and in a close game, the Steelers were only able to call 15 designed runs. Those are the numbers you see in a blowout going the wrong way, not a back and forth slugfest.
As this season winds down, and moving into the offseason the Steelers coaching staff is going to have to assess the running game and decide which players stay and which go. If this last game is a gauge for that at all, this Steelers team may need to throw a contract extension to Mendenhall and perhaps allow one of the other veteran running backs to walk. There is no denying that Mendenhall’s overall skill level is greater than any other back on the roster, but running back is such an undervalued position many NFL front offices take is the position is plug and play.
But for the Steelers this may not be the case. I expect to see Mendenhall back in uniform and on the field in these final two regular season games, and if by chance they make the playoffs in the backfield there as well. I have always said I root for the jersey, not the name on the back of it, so I want the Steelers front office to be fair and honest with themselves as far as the running game goes and keep the players that gives this team the best chance to win.
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