Steelers' Mendenhall to start at RB when healthy
Rashard Mendenhall is likely still a week away from being healthy enough to return to game action, but when he does, the former first-round pick will assume his starting role.
Steelers running back coach Kirby Wilson told the Trib on Wednesday that Mendenhall “has the whole package, so that's your guy,” despite recent success by Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer.
“Rashard has always been our lead dog and our top runner,” Wilson said.
Mendenhall has been inactive for six of eight games — three while recovering from offseason knee surgery and three while nursing an Achilles injury — and it's unclear whether he will play Monday when the Steelers host Kansas City.
Mendenhall had 101 total yards in his first game back against Philadelphia on Oct. 7 before getting injured the next week against Tennessee.
Despite three consecutive 100-yard efforts (two by Dwyer and one by Redman), Wilson likes Mendenhall's intangibles.
“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.”
However, Wilson reiterated what Mike Tomlin said earlier in the week: Whoever is having success during the game is who will get the ball the most.
“Whoever is producing, give it to them again,” Wilson said. “They are aware of whoever is producing is going to get the most opportunities.”
But Mendenhall will get the initial opportunity.
Wilson, who is responsible for making the running back depth chart, is indifferent about going with a running back-by-committee approach when all three are healthy.
“On any given Sunday, you can have the next guy in there,” Wilson said.
Mendenhall has eight 100-yard games and 29 TDs in his five years in the league. His 832 rushes are 512 more than Dwyer and Redman combined. He will be an unrestricted free agent at end's year.
Notes: CB Ike Taylor is the AFC defensive player of the week for the second time in his career. Taylor made the first INT by a Steelers cornerback Sunday. He also made five tackles and broke up a pass. ... The Steelers plan to promote receiver David Gilreath to their 53-man roster because Antonio Brown (high-ankle sprain) is unlikely to play Monday. ... Ex-Penn State and Rochester High receiver Derek Moye was added to the practice squad, replacing tight end Jamie McCoy.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.