Fantasy Football 2011: Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace Are Ready to Conquer

Jeremy Alpert@@pyroman1acSenior Analyst IIMay 31, 2011

2010 Review: Rashard Mendenhall No. 34

Rashard Mendenhall knew it wouldn’t be easy to take that next step up into the exclusive, topflight class of NFL running backs, but his many fantasy owners sure had confidence he would.

Besides playing in what is probably the league’s toughest division against the run (AFC North), Mendenhall had a few other obstacles to face in order to get to where many predicted he could be by year’s end.

First of all, Pittsburgh was heading into the season without the services of their starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger (suspension), for the first four games.  With backup QBs such as Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon running the show, Rashard knew his work would be cut out for him with opposing defenses likely keying in on the run.

So how did the big 225-pound back out of Illinois respond?  Let’s just say it was better than expected.

Not only did the Steelers end up 3-1 during those four games without Big Ben, but their success could in large part be attributed to the work Mendenhall put out during that stretch:  22.3 carries/game, 102.8 yards/game, 4.62 YPC and four touchdowns.

Not too bad for a guy playing against teams that knew Pittsburgh was going to run.

In addition, Mendenhall had to deal with the fact that the Steelers offensive line had lost their best starter for the season (right tackle Willie Colon) and at the very least was going to be a year-long work in progress.

Again, though, Rashard wasn’t going to let this not-so-minor hurdle stand in the way of his goals.

By the end of a Pittsburgh season that saw their team reach the Super Bowl for the third time in the last six years, Mendenhall would rack up 324 carries (4th in the NFL) for 1,274 yards (7th), 13 rushing TDs (tied for 2nd) and 222.1 fantasy points (7th).

Pretty darn good stats for a guy just three years into his career with the odds stacked against him.

As NFL teams continue to move towards the injury/energy-saving RBBC (running back by committee), Rashard is one of the few remaining workhorse backs that fantasy teams covet at draft time.  As trends go, 2011 should be no different as not only will the Steel Crew once again forge ahead into the future riding the legs of Mr. Mendenhall, but fantasy owners should and will do so as well.

(brought to you by PYROMANIAC.COM)


2011 Pros and Cons

(+) Rashard is Pittsburgh’s clear-cut starter with no real backup looking to vulture away carries

(+) Mike Tomlin and the Steelers front office have vowed to completely re-commit to the run

(+) Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace and the Steelers passing attack keep opposing defenses from crowding the line

(+) Proved to be a true workhorse RB in 2010 amassing the sixth most touches in the NFL (347)

(+) Tied for the second most rushing TDs in the league (13)

(+) Looks like his fumbling problem is in the rear-view mirror (just two fumbles in 347 regular season touches) 

(+) Despite his off-season tweeting scandal, Mendy has a good head on his shoulders and is a very well-spoken guy

(–) The Steelers offensive line is a work in progress, especially if they decide not to re-sign Willie Colon (Mendenhall dropped from 4.6 YPC in 2009 to 3.9 in 2010)

(–) Being in the AFC North, Mendenhall will be playing in one of the NFL's toughest divisions against the run


For the rest of Rashard Mendenhall's Player Profile, CLICK HERE

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2010 Review: Mike Wallace No. 17

Sophomore slump my a--!

Expectations were lofty heading into the 2010 season for the Steelers’ speedy, young wide receiver, but there was no way to gauge how well Mike Wallace would perform in just his second year of NFL football.

As a rookie in 2009, Wallace did well enough as Pittsburgh’s third receiver to warrant both praise and high hopes for his future.  However, the Steelers’ offensive situation would change drastically during the off-season as not only was the team’s WR1—Santonio Holmes—traded to the New York Jets, but their starting QB—Ben Roethlisberger—got himself suspended for the team’s first six games (later reduced to four) for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

Holmes’ departure left the Steelers no choice but to throw Wallace into the vacant WR1 slot, and though the move was clearly necessary, it was stocked with both risk and potential alike.

Would the fledgling wideout take advantage of the opportunity and rise to elite status?  Or would he succumb to the pressure of being “the guy” in a major football city and flop like so many others have?

Wallace would answer those questions as quick and definitively as possible.

In just the third game of the year, with the ancient and erratic Charlie Batch at the helm, Wallace helped lead his team to a 3-0 start to the season by catching two long touchdowns of 41 and 46 yards while putting up 100 yards in the process.

If the game was against a team with an awful pass D like Houston or Washington, not much would have been thought of it.

But it wasn’t.

It was against a legitimate, top-10 Tampa Bay defense with young Wallace squaring off against one of the better cornerbacks in the game, Aqib Talib.

Suffice it to say, his performance was very impressive.

Two weeks later, Ben Roethlisberger would return from his suspension and immediately take a liking to his new number one gun.  During the next six weeks (games 5-10 for the Steelers), Big Ben and Wallace would hook up for six touchdowns and 548 yards to go along with three 100-yard games for the sophomore receiver.

Apparently these two didn’t need much time to get used to each other as the lethal combination ended up taking Pittsburgh to their third Super Bowl in the last six years.

Mike Wallace’s rapid ascension to the top of the WR fantasy heap was no fluke, boys and girls—and neither were his 1,257 yards, 10 TDs, fifth-ranked 189.6 fantasy points or average of 21.0 yards per catch.

In fact, that 21.0 YPC was about as rare as it comes as the last wide receiver to put up that high of a number was Falcons WR Michael Haynes back in 1991 (based on receivers with 50-plus catches during the season).

A word to the wise for fantasy owners in 2011:  Wallace is here to stay, folks.  Draft him with confidence as a WR1 on your team this coming year.

(brought to you by PYROMANIAC.COM)


2011 Pros and Cons

(+) Mike seemed to have no problem whatsoever transforming into the WR1 for the Steelers last season

(+) Has a great rapport with Roethlisberger – In Big Ben’s first six games back in 2010, they connected for six touchdowns and 548 yards

(+) In 2010, Wallace was second in the league in yards per catch (21.0) after leading the league during his 2009 rookie campaign (19.4)

(+) Wallace runs a 4.33 40-yard dash despite weighing 200 pounds

(+) For leagues that reward long touchdowns, Wallace is a must-have (10 TDs – Distances: 56, 53, 52, 46, 43, 41, 39, 33, 29, 15)

(+) Emmanuel Sanders looks like a great candidate to take some coverage off of Wallace with Hines Ward in obvious decline

(–) With Pittsburgh’s love for the running game and Rashard Mendenhall coming into his own, the passing game could take a hit in 2011

(–) He might be a burner, but he’s not a great route-runner – He's basically just a fly-route guy


For the rest of Mike Wallace's Player Profile, CLICK HERE

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