Time For the Steelers to Replace Mendenhall

Rashard Mendenhall has played in all, but one game this year, last week's 38-17 dismantling of upstart Tennessee.  It was easily the most complete offensive game that the Steelers have played all year.  And I don't think it is a coincidence that it came without Mendenhall in the game.  Let's look at the facts...

  • From the coaching staff...  Bruce Arians obviously felt like he didn't have to "gift" Mendenhall a certain number of carries.  Diversifying the offense with multiple shotgun looks and short passing routes, Arians was able to get everyone involved in the offense from Redman and Dwyer to Hines Ward, who finally had a breakout game.  Ward's involvement Sunday only solidified that fact Rashard is indeed taking other Steelers playmakers out of the offense.  
  • Offensive line...  The signing of Max Starks to help anchor a beat up offensive line could be the difference between Roethlisberger surviving the season or not.  His leadership on the offensive line will carry the offense a long way, but one thing that was blatantly noticeable is that this offensive line prefers blocking for all the running backs not named Rashard Mendenhall.  These guys not only pass protected better, but opened enough holes for Dwyer and Redman to give the Steelers their highest yard per carry to date.  The offensive line also opened a hole for Dwyer to run 76 yards (an astonishing 53 yards further than Mendenhall's best run).  And did you see how excited the offensive line was after that run?  It was like they planned for to happen all along and were just waiting for the right moment.
  • Ben Roethlisberger...  Big Ben had his best game of the year by a long shot.  He was the only player in the AFC to win the Offensive Player of the Week Award.  I think Ben wanted to prove that he didn't need Mendenhall for the Steelers to win football games.  He threw the ball all over the field to the tune of five TD passes (even tying a single game Steelers record in the process).  For the first time all year, Ben didn't feel restricted by having to force Mendenhall the ball; thus allowing him to basically play a turnover-free game (his INT was a miscommunication with Emmanuel Sanders on a fake spike/pass play).  I mean Ben handed the ball off to the other two backs every play that wasn't a pass!  
  • Defense...  Not to be outdone, Pittsburgh's defense also turned in one of its best games of the year vs. tennessee.  Without Mendenhall bogging down the offense with uneventful runs, the defense was able to stay off the field long enough to stay fresh and keep Hasselbeck under 5 yds/attempt and only allow Chris Johnson 51 yards rushing.  So looking at the stats, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense would rank first in the NFL against the run if Mendenhall stayed injured (not that we actually want any player to ever be hurt).   

Sometimes looking at stats can be quite misleading, or even subjective, but I believe all these prove a valid point.  That this Steelers team plays better when Mendenhall isn't on the field.  The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" kinda league and last week proved that the Steelers don't need 1,300 yard rusher Mendenhall to be successful.

Til next time...


Bryan Nichols doesn’t always blog, but when he does …

Bryan is TPFBlog’s featured team blogger for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Follow me on Twitter. Email me at

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