For those who don't remember, the last game of the 2011 season ended in Cleveland.
Rashard Mendenhall was on pace to go over 1000 yards in the season.
On your typical running play by then OC Bruce Arians, Mendenhall started running up the field, only to fall while holding his knee. What made it awkward was that he wasn't touched. He just fell down.
After an MRI, it was confirmed: Mendenhall had torn his ACL, the most devastating injury to a Running Back.
The loss of Mendenhall showed as the Steelers had almost no running game against Denver and ultimately lost. (thanks Ike)
During the off season, we saw many changes to our beloved Steelers. Players like James Farrior, Arron Smith and Hines Ward were suddenly gone. Bruce Arians "had retired". Todd Haley was selected as the new OC. Tension between Ben and Haley. Etc.
One subject that was out there was the Running Back position. Mendenhall wasn't going to be back until the game against the Eagles, but nobody knew what shape was going to be in.
The season started where it ended, in Denver. We had to watch a rejuvenated Peyton Manning carve us up like a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. If I remember correctly, Issac Redman was the starter in the game. He went 11Att/20 Yds.
As we all witness back to back 100+ yards from Johnathon Dwyer, people were suddenly jumping on the bandwagon, which makes sense. The guy reminds us of the Jerome Bettis days.
When Mendenhall came back, we were all excited, but confused at the same time. We had no idea what we were going to get out of him. He had 13 caries for 68 yards. He did fumble, but it went out of bounds. He had also received 3 catches for 33 yards as well.
After that, it went all downhill, but not just for Mendenhall, but for all of the Running Backs.
Mike Tomlin kept shuffling the backs as if they were a deck of cards, but he ultimately had Dwyer as the starter with everybody else stuck in the mud. Chris Rainey was taking kick offs, and Batch, Redman and Mendenhall were all playing the guessing game. It got so bad that when Mendenhall was told he wasn't playing, he simply said "screw it" and went home; thus getting suspended for one game.
As our year was wrapped up, we were all given one last glimpse of the Steelers. It reminds us of how inconsistent the running game was for them, as the Steelers were 26th in the league in rushing. The game in Cleveland will remind me that this team could have been in the Playoffs had there been more consistency, particularly in the running game.