As we continue to get ready for the 2010 season, let’s play some over/under. Today’s topic: Rashard Mendenhall
Rashard Mendenhall wasn’t supposed to be available when the Steelers made their selection (No. 23) during the first round of the 2008 draft. When it turned out that he was, the team didn’t waste any time and grabbed him in a classic case of taking the best player available. His career didn’t get off to the best start, with his rookie season ending prematurely after his shoulder was shattered in a collision with Ray Lewis, and then carrying the ball just seven times through the first three games of the 2009 season, while also facing criticism from Mike Tomlin for “not knowing his assignments” leading up to the Week 3 game against Cincinnati.
And that’s when his young career started to take a turn for the better.
The following week, against the San Diego Chargers, Mendenhall took over for an injured Willie Parker and rushed for 165 yards on 29 carries, while also scoring his first two NFL touchdowns. From that point on, the starting job was his, and he displayed the type of explosiveness, shiftiness and power that made him such a highly touted prospect coming out of Illinois. He ended the season with just a little over 1,100 yards rushing, while also picking up over 270 yards through the air.
Can he improve?
Working In His Favor: Well, the most important thing is the fact he is the starter entering the season. He rushed for over 1,100 yards last year starting just 13 games, while being a non-factor in the first three.
The suspension of Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games this season means the running game is going to be (I’m assuming) a huge part of the offense. That, plus the fact the Steelers aren’t particularly deep at the running back position, should mean a lot more carries for Mendenhall.
Working Against Him: The current state of the offensive line, especially without right tackle Willie Colon, arguably the groups best player last season. It was a weak group with him, and is significantly worse without him.
Now that he’s going to be the unquestioned starter entering training camp, the question for Mendenhall is this: Over/Under 1,250 yards?