Friday, October 14, 2011
Wake-up call: Mendenhall gets start
By Jamison Hensley
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Rashard Mendenhall will remain the Steelers starting running back over Isaac Redman, according to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
"Oh, Rashard; Rashard's the man," Arians told reporters, via The Associated Press. "He's ready to go and everything will be back to normal."
Mendenhall has practiced all week after not playing Sunday with a hamstring injury. He has struggled this season, averaging 3.0 yards per carry.
Redman made his first NFL start in place of Mendenhall and ran for 49 yards on 15 carries, a 3.3-yard average.
"His average was the same as Rashard last week," Arians said of Redman. "He made some really nice runs but the numbers were the same. We feel very confident in Red[man] when he's in there but it all depends on Rashard. We don't want to get him reinjured so it won't be an overload situation."
Hensley's slant: Like I said earlier, the Steelers can start Mendenhall but they need to give Redman, and even Jonathan Dwyer, some chances early. Pittsburgh should keep its options open and go with the running back who is having the most success in that particular game. Yes, the yards per carry between Mendenhall and Redman are similar for that game. The difference is yards after contact, where Redman (2.6) is one of the best in the NFL and Mendenhall (1.1) is among the worst.
- BENGALS: Would the Bengals be better off with Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton at quarterback? The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty goes with Dalton. "Red’s teammates love Red," Daugherty wrote. "More importantly, they follow him. He isn’t burdened with The Divas. Red can roam the sideline pumping up his mates, without massive eyeball-rolling. Cynicism has taken a holiday this fall." Hensley's slant: The only reason to choose Dalton over Palmer for this season is locker-room chemistry. As far as talent, Palmer has the edge in arm strength, accuracy and experience. You have to be intrigued by Dalton's upside, and injuries have caused Palmer to decline in recent years. But Palmer is proven with a 22-15 record (.595) in the AFC North, including 9-4 against the likes of the Ravens.
- BROWNS: Cornerback Joe Haden (knee) and center Alex Smith (appendectomy) still haven't been ruled out by coach Pat Shurmur, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It's too early to speculate on whether they will play," Shurmur told the paper. "Some coaches have a hard and fast rule if they're not there on Friday then they can't play. Each one is different and I'll kind of hold off. There's a chance if they can't practice on Friday they can still play, I will say that." Hensley's slant: It would be shocking to see either one suit up, especially since neither has practiced the past two weeks. Even though the Browns would never want to play without Haden, this is a good time to let him rest. The next three opponents -- Oakland, Seattle and San Francisco -- all rank in the bottom 11 in passing and none have a receiver who ranks in the top 20 in yards.
- RAVENS: The Ravens are coming off an emotional win over the New York Jets and a bye week. The Houston Texans are playing without their best player on offense and defense. That is why The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston cautions that this could be another "trap" game for the Ravens. It was only four weeks ago when the Ravens suffered a letdown at Tennessee after routing the Steelers. "You take a team like Houston lightly, and we saw that with Tennessee where we did not play well coming off a big win, and they will beat you," Baltimore outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "I would say Houston is more talented. They have a better scheme and are really aggressive. This team can really hurt you." Hensley's slant: The Ravens are a mature team, and they historically use the bye week to recharge physically and mentally. Baltimore is 3-0 following the bye under coach John Harbaugh, winning by an average margin of 19 points. So, another letdown is unlikely especially since it was only 10 months ago when the Ravens were taken into overtime by this same Texans team.