Steelers think Mendenhall will carry the load in 2010

There’s been so much talk about the Steelers running the ball more in 2010, and the big reason for that is what 2nd year back Rashard Mendenhall did last year, going over 1000 yards even though he wasn’t even the opening day starter. His play opened the door for the team to not even seriously make an offer to free agent Willie Parker.

Now Bruce Arians is talking about running the ball better, and running backs coach Kirby Wilson says the team can count on Mendenhall as well for pass protection, hoping to protect whoever is back there throwing the football this year.

With the normally Top 10 Pittsburgh Steelers ground game ranking 23rd (2008) and 19th (2009) the last two seasons, Steelers president Art Rooney II has issued a directive to the coaching staff for the Steelers to be a more effective team on the ground. “At the end of the game, in the four-minute [offense] to run out the clock and not punt the ball, short yards, goal line are areas we have to be more efficient,” Arians told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this week. Despite the inconsistency of the ground game last year, second-year back Rashard Mendenhall topped 1,100 yards.

A greater commitment to the running game, especially in the first half of the season where starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s availability is in question, could lead to a break-out season for the 5-10, 225-pound Mendenhall. “He has the unique ability to play every down, every situation. You can probably count that many guys on one hand who can do that in this league,” Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson said. “He’s an outstanding pass protector. He’s got unbelievable hands. He can run inside. He can run outside. He can run off-tackle, misdirection runs. He does a lot of things for this offense that are kind of in the background right now. He’s got great power and will only get better over the next four to five years.”

There’s no doubt this team needs to run better, and if they can, it will help out the passing game and take pressure off the person under center for the first few weeks of the regular season.

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