Fumbling becoming part of Mendenhall's repertoire
If the arms of Rashard Mendenhall and his fellow running backs are a little more bruised than usual this week, they only have themselves to blame.
The defensive players have not held back on whacking away at the football when a running back has it, and for good reason.
Steelers running backs put the ball on the Heinz Field turf three times Saturday night against the Detroit Lions.
A Mendenhall fumble negated a big play on the Steelers' first possession. An Isaac Redman fumble later would have resulted in a turnover, but coach Mike Tomlin challenged the call and got it overturned.
"Absolutely, it's a concern," Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson said of the fumbling issues. "Quite frankly, it tells me we're not ready and we've got to work even harder on the details and fundamentals of carrying the football."
Wilson has gotten some help in that area the last two days. The defense has been aggressive in trying to pry the ball loose, particularly on running plays.
"They realize that's an area we're trying to improve on, so they're trying to help the backs with that," Tomlin said of his defensive players.
When Mendenhall had fumbling issues during his first preseason in 2008, veteran players made him carry a football around the Steelers' practice facility — and they fined him if someone was able to knock it out of his grasp.
On the fourth play of the preseason opener, Mendenhall flashed through an opening on the right side but had the ball poked away from him by Lions safety C.C. Brown.
Right tackle Flozell Adams alertly fell on it, but Mendenhall's carelessness may have cost him a long touchdown run.
"He don't fumble that ball, he's out to the house," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "It's starting to become a knock on him now. One thing we've got to control is the Steelers not beating the Steelers."
Mendenhall, who lost three fumbles in 2009, said he let the ball get too far away from his body as he shifted into another gear and added, "You can't let them happen."
"I've spoken with Rashard and tried to rectify the problem, but at the end of the day, it's got to come down to him being more responsible with the football and not putting the ball on the ground," Ward said.