Steelers finally get personal look at Mendenhall
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will get his first up-close and personal look at running back Rashard Mendenhall today when the Steelers open minicamp.
He can only hope the Steelers' first-round draft pick looks as good in person as he does on tape.
Arians probably hasn't stopped smiling since the Steelers took Mendenhall with the 23rd overall pick of the draft this past Saturday and then selected wide receiver Limas Sweed in the second round.
One of the many reasons why he is ecstatic about adding Mendenhall to a running game that ranked third in the NFL last season: the Steelers don't anticipate the former Illinois star having as steep learning curve as most rookie running backs even though he is just 20 years old.
"(Steelers running backs coach) Kirby Wilson and I both felt he might have been the most-ready-to-play guy of the top running backs because he can pass protect," Arians said of Mendenhall, who was the fourth running back taken in the draft. "That's usually the hardest thing for the young running backs coming out of college is having to block Joey Porter off the edge or those great linebackers they face one-on-one in pass protection."
It is too early to say what role Mendenhall, who rushed for 1,681 and 17 touchdowns this past season at Illinois, will carve out in the crowded Steelers' backfield.
Puttin' on the pads
The Steelers open minicamp today at their South Side facility. They will practice twice today, two times Saturday and once Sunday. The team also has 12 OTA practices scheduled for later this month and also in June.
He is expected to complement Willie Parker, who was leading the NFL in rushing before breaking his leg this past December. Arians said the Steelers will also "explore" ways to get Mendenhall and Parker on the field together.
"We'll develop a small package," Arians said, "just to have another package."
If the Steelers are excited that Mendenhall should be able to contribute immediately, they are also comfortable that the 5-9, 224-pounder will be able to handle the reduced role he'll have playing behind Parker.
"He came in here the same way at Illinois," Illini coach Ron Zook said of Mendenhall, who didn't become the team's feature back until this past season. "The first two years he was behind some pretty good backs, and he had a chance to learn the system and learn the game. (The situation in Pittsburgh) will give him an opportunity to learn what it's like to be a pro. I think it will help him."
Mendenhall and the rest of the players in his draft class will experience what it is like to be a professional during the minicamp that runs through Sunday.
The camp is mandatory, and undrafted free agents that the Steelers signed earlier this week also will be among those that take part in the practices.
When asked what he will be looking at in regard to the rookies, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "Their level of conditioning, how much information they are capable of taking in in such a short period of time. Their ability to get on a moving train if you will. It's a mental toughness exercise more than anything."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ fourth-round pick Grant relies on smarts to get job done
- Steelers are banking on linebackers to improve strength of defense
- Kaboly: Steelers fill biggest needs by drafting defensive players
- Steelers get their corner with Mississippi’s Golson
- Penn State tight end James, a South Allegheny grad, goes to Steelers in 5th round
- Steelers focus on defense on final day of NFL Draft
- Steeler draft analysis: There’s no excuse for no 1st-round cornerback
- Steelers notebook: Harrison will play fewer snaps this season
- Steelers draft WR from Auburn in 3rd round