Friday, February 4, 2011
Mendenhall, Steelers have the right stuff
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been strong rushing to the right all season, averaging 5.9 yards per rush in the regular season (second in the NFL) and 5.1 yards per rush in the postseason. Rashard Mendenhall has led that charge for the Steelers, averaging 6.0 yards per rush to the right in the regular season and 5.3 yards per rush in the postseason.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the Green Bay Packers are allowing 5.2 yards per rush to the right side of the offense this season which ranks 26th in the NFL.
Another area where Mendenhall has excelled all year is inside the opponents’ 5-yard line.
Mendenhall had 12 touchdowns on rushes inside the five during the regular season, tied for most in the league with NFL rushing champ Arian Foster and Michael Turner. He pulled that off with 31 fewer rushes than Foster and 16 fewer carries than Turner from inside the 5-yard line.
In addition, Mendehnall has three scores on 11 rushes inside the five in just two postseason games.
One area in which the Packers have an edge over the Steelers ground game is with their small sub packages. Mendenhall actually did worse this season when rushing against defenses with five or more defensive backs on the field. He averaged 3.0 yards per rush this season against five or more defensive backs and didn’t score a touchdown in 71 rush attempts.
When Green Bay has the ball, the Steelers’ rush defense will pose a challenge. The Packers’ offense has been more balanced in the postseason as James Starks has gotten into the rotation.
Sticking with the run will be a challenge for Green Bay against a Pittsburgh defense that was stout against the run in the regular season, no matter which direction teams tried.