Steelers' Mendenhall to start when healthy

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
12:59
AM ET
Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson knows who will be Pittsburgh's starting back and it's not one of the players who has gained more than 100 yards over the past three weeks.

Rashard Mendenhall will remain the Steelers' starting running back when he's recovered from an Achilles injury. According to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he is likely another week away from playing.

Mendenhall
Mendenhall
“Rashard has always been our lead dog and our top runner,” Wilson told the paper.

The Steelers have put together a productive ground game without Mendenhall. Jonathan Dwyer had consecutive 100-yard rushing games before missing Sunday with a quad injury. Isaac Redman rushed for a career-high 147 yards last Sunday.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week that the running back who is having the most success during the game will get the ball the most. The first opportunity, according to Wilson, will go to Mendenhall, who had 101 total yards on Oct. 7 against Philadelphia (his only full game this season).

“Rashard is the complete package -- power, speed, explosiveness,” Wilson said. “He is the guy who can take a 10-yard run and make people miss and get 20 more. We think Jonathan has things that he is great at. Isaac has some things that he is great at. But Rashard is the complete package. Rashard has proved that he can do it over the long haul.”

I would've stuck with Dwyer based on his recent success and his running style. Dwyer became the first Steelers running back in four seasons to gain 100 yards in back-to-back games. He's earned the right to get the first shot at starting when everyone is healthy.

Another reason to go with Dwyer is he's a combination of Mendenhall and Redman. Dwyer can break long runs to the outside like Mendenhall and gain the tough yards in between the tackles like Redman. Mendenhall has a tendency to be impatient and wants to bounce runs to the outside too quickly.

There's a chance that the Steelers could go with a running back by committee. But offensive tackle Max Starks said this week that the offensive line favors one featured back because the blockers can get into a rhythm.

The Steelers may not have to make a decision about Mendenhall, who is considered questionable for Monday night's game against the Chiefs. Dwyer has a good shot at playing after being inactive last Sunday.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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