Last week Rashard Mendenhall was an embarrassing First Round Draft pick that "didn't know the details of his assignment" according to Mike Tomlin. Tomlin made a point by not playing Mendenhall on offense, as he received zero carries against the Bengals.
What a difference a week makes as Mendenhall got the start against the San Diego Chargers because of a Toe injury to starter Willie Parker and did he ever make the most of it! Mendenhall ran for 165 yards, which was 64, more yards then he had total so far in his career. He had 29 carries, which was 3 more, then his career total of 26. He also scored his first two career touchdowns of 1 and 2 yards.
After this performance by Mendenhall it seems the end might/should be now for Willie Parker as the Steelers starting running back. "Fast" Willie Parker has been slowed recently by a toe injury and has not showed durability the last couple of years.
After two seasons of 300 plus carries Parker seems to have lost something. Last season he had nagging injuries that limited him to only 11 games in the regular season. Where he ran 210 times for only 791 yards. This is a 3.8 yards per carry average for Parker who has seen this average dip sense 2005 when he averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
Willie Parker is also not a complete back. He is not a good receiver and is too small and ineffective as a pass blocker for Ben Roethlisberger. With Parker's contract expiring after this year if the Steelers could bring him back at a good price he would be a great complement to Mendenhall for future years and the present. This would able Parker to stay healthy and be able to relieve Mendenhall in game occasionally.
Rashard Mendenhall was labeled as a bust earlier this year for his production. In reality he just wasn’t given much of a chance so far in his career up to Sunday night. On his only start last season, while Parker was hurt, he played the Baltimore Ravens who only gave up 81.4 yards on the ground a game. He had nine carries for 30 yards before he was hurt in the first half. Not great numbers but good ones against a defense like Baltimore has.
Rashard Mendenhall put all his talents on display Sunday night against the Chargers. He ran the ball for power especially near the endzone with touchdown of 1 and 2 yards. Goal line scoring the Steelers have not had sense the retirement of Jerome Bettis. He also showed sub 4.4 speed to go along with his power running as he had a long run of 39 yard after hitting the hole with great speed.
Mendenhall also showed receiving skills as he had 2 catches for 26 yards. Receiving is something he showed at his time at the University of Illinois. Another aspect of his game was his pass blocking as he leveled linebackers coming on free blitzes toward Roethlisberger.
Unlike Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall is a complete running back and should start for the Steelers now as the future is now for him and the Steelers. They should use Parker as a great complement.
Rashard Mendenhall has all the tools to be the next great running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The FUTURE IS NOW!!
Mendenhall only starting year stats at the University of Illinois
2007 attempts yrds avg. Rec. Yrds. Avg.
262 1681 6.4 34 318 9.4