Rashard Mendenhall plays the superhero role for the Steelers
Rashard Mendenhall burst through the line of scrimmage untouched and was racing down the sideline when he felt the hand of Atlanta Falcons safety Erik Coleman swipe at his shoes near the 20-yard line.
Coleman might as well have tugged on Superman's cape.
"I knew I wasn't going down," Mendenhall said. "He got my foot a little bit, but my eyes were towards the end zone."
Mendenhall played superhero Sunday for the Steelers, stumbling before regaining his footing to score on a 50-yard run 2:35 into overtime that clinched a 15-9 victory in the season opener at Heinz Field.
The game's lone touchdown came on a bread-and-butter play called 22 Double that is designed to run right and find a seam. Right guard Trai Essex and right tackle Flozell Adams sealed the inside. Mendenhall followed fullback David Johnson - who blew up two defenders - and squirted through a seam between tight end Heath Miller, who stood up end Kroy Biermann, and wide receiver Hines Ward, who shielded safety Thomas Decoud.
"We knew it was coming down to the nitty-gritty and you only get one or two possessions in overtime, so the offensive line knew it was now or never," Adams said. "We just went out there and did it."
Mendenhall finished with a game-high 120 yards on 22 carries, his fourth career 100-yard game. His only other run longer than 10 yards was a 13-yard gain early in the fourth quarter, as 18 of his carries were for 5 yards or less.
"In the run game, you've got to be patient," Mendenhall said. "It's tough. You wait all game for a play like that, where everybody is (defended) and it opens up. Once it opened up, I was trying to get to the end zone."
Atlanta coach Mike Smith blamed the play on a "miss-fit," or missed blocking assignment that made the Falcons feel like misfits after holding the Steelers to three field goals.
"It was horrible. I feel horrible," Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "As a defense, I felt we played pretty good the entire game. Then, to let them have a big play like that at the end, it makes you sick to your stomach."