Found February 13, 2013 on
SteelBlitz Steelers Blog:
The Steelers are heading into the off-season with multiple holes to fill, but one of the most important positions they need to address is running back. Pittsburgh has spent multiple draft picks in the last three drafts on the offensive line in hopes of protecting Ben Roethlisberger and opening lanes in the running game. Now with a young offensive line and a new blocking scheme there is some optimism that the Steelers could return to their old ways of running the ball.
Todd Haley had a solid running game in Kansas City as did new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. both of whom will look to bring that success to the Steelers. With the amount of talent they have to work with on the offensive line they will have a chance to do it, but a feature back is still needed. Right now the Steelers have no running backs under contract so this off-season will be their chance to fill their stable of backs and decide who the starter will be in 2013.
Jonathan Dwyer has the ability to be a feature back if he can put it all together. Dwyer has already been in the league for three seasons, but he is only a few months older then some of the top prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft. One of the biggest issues Dwyer has had in his career are with conditioning. During Dwyer’s early college career he was a quick power back, but he is about 15-20 pounds heavier now. If the Steelers want a runner that can get to the edge they may have their guy in Dwyer. It will just require Dwyer to drop some weight and get back to sprinting. Dwyer was a All-State sprinter in high school he ran a 10.81 in the 100 meter dash, the second best time in the state of Georgia.
The Steelers best options for running back right now are Dwyer and Redman, who are both restricted free agents, and Baron Batch an exclusive rights free agent. Chris Rainey would have been in the mix if not for off-field issues that forced the Steelers to cut him. Pittsburgh may also look to free agency and the draft to bring in another back, but there are no great running backs in this draft class and the Steelers rarely use free agency to fill holes on the team.
So what options are left? Well, the Steelers will likely use one of their first four picks on a running back. Players like Montee Ball, Eddie Lacy, or Marcus Lattimore could all turn into feature backs in the NFL. The other option is to bring back Rashard Mendenhall for another year. Mendenhall is expected to leave as a free agent this off-season. During his Steelers career Mendenhall has had some issues with maturity and those problems may cost him a chance to return; especially the fact that he didn’t show up to the San Diego Chargers game this season after being told he would be inactive.
However, if Mendenhall doesn’t have any major suitors in free agency and is willing to return he could be a cheap option for the Steelers. If Mendenhall is willing to take a small deal to return for a season or two the Steelers may be willing to give him another shot. Mendenhall is a solid running back and can be a three down player. His skill-set also fits well into an offense that uses a zone blocking scheme. Mendenhall’s biggest issues have come when he has been asked to consistently run between the tackles because Mendenhall likes to wait for his blockers which doesn’t work well in those situations. However, in a zone blocking scheme the whole point is to set up your blocks and cut back into the lanes.
During the 2009 and 2010 seasons Mendenhall performed very well as the Steelers running back and he was one of the main offensive pieces that helped the team to Super Bowl 45. However, a costly fumble in that game has further soured Mendenhall’s reputation with the fan base and has got him unfairly labelled him as a fumbling-machine. I wrote this earlier this month which gives a perspective on Mendenhall’s ball control:
“During his NFL career Mendenhall has rushed for over 1,000 yards twice and averages 4.1 yards per carry. Mendenhall is also a solid pass catcher out of the backfield and has caught 77 passes during his five years with Pittsburgh. Mendenhall’s three fumbles in 2012 match the highest total of his career, but only one of those was a lost fumble. So far through five seasons Mendenhall has fumbled the ball nine times and lost seven of those fumbles. That means he fumbles about every 105 times he touches the ball. For a better perspective that number is better than Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, and Jamaal Charles.”
If the Steelers don’t see a running back they covet in the draft or someone to sign in free agency and they can re-sign Mendenhall to a cap friendly don’t be surprised if they do just that. Mendenhall has been a solid starting running back and if the offensive line in front of him can stay healthy and block consistently he could get even better. Not to mention the fact that a zone blocking scheme fits his talents perfectly which means 2013 could be his most productive season to date. If he could be more productive than he was in 2010 that would add another dimension to the Steelers offense and make Ben Roethlisberger and the defense even better.
The post Is Rashard Mendenhall Still an Option for the Steelers? appeared first on SteelBlitz Steelers Blog.
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