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Tuesday, September 14, 2010
AFC North Week 1 decisive moment

By James Walker

In the few seconds that it took running back Rashard Mendenhall to gallop 50 yards for a touchdown in overtime, all the offseason stress for the Pittsburgh Steelers temporarily disappeared.

For those precious moments, there were no concerns about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension, and the Steelers couldn't have cared less about their sputtering offense the previous four quarters. All that mattered was Mendenhall's sprint up the right sideline gave a jubilant Pittsburgh team its first victory of the season, a 15-9 decision over the Atlanta Falcons.

It doesn't get more decisive than overtime -- and Mendenhall was ready for the big moment.

"In the run game, you just have to be patient," said Mendenhall, who rushed for 120 yards on 22 carries. "We knew that something was going to open up, and it did in overtime."

There were many important plays in the AFC North this weekend. But Mendenhall's clearly was the biggest. Roethlisberger will miss three more games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, but the Steelers proved they can win without him.

The Steelers (1-0) will need more big plays from Mendenhall and others when they travel to play the Tennessee Titans (1-0) on Sunday.