Ground game resurfaces for Steelers in win
Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman were clamoring for the ball after the Steelers' final practice Friday.
They wanted more touches, particularly in the passing game. But they conceded that without much of a screen package, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wouldn't look their way against the Seahawks.
They were wrong.
The Steelers running backs amassed 124 hard-earned rushing yards. Yet their combined four receptions kept the Seahawks off-balance during a 24-0 victory Sunday at Heinz Field.
"Whenever we got the ball in our hands, we wanted to make something happen," said Redman, who finished with 49 yards on 10 attempts. "We didn't get the big numbers, but we kept the ball moving. This was a perfect time for us to work on stuff, especially in the run game."
Roethlisberger's numbers — 22 of 33 for 298 yards — weren't dazzling but effective, mostly because the Seahawks were forced to account for Mendenhall and Redman.
Roethlisberger picked apart the Seahawks' defense with a short, control passing game that effectively opened up the boundaries for wide receivers Mike Wallace (eight catches, 126 yards), Antonio Brown (four for 67) and Emmanuel Sanders (two for 44).
The versatility of the Steelers' running backs figured significantly, as the Steelers pounded a gritty, but outmanned Seattle defense to build a 17-0 halftime lead.
Mendenhall and Redman handled the ball seven times during a 14-play, 81-yard scoring drive that chewed up nearly eight minutes. Mendenhall had runs of 8 and 10 yards to set up a 20-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham with 1:52 remaining in the second quarter.
"We've got close to the goal line a couple of times, but we'll need to stick the ball in more consistently," said Mendenhall, who finished with 19 carries for 66 yards. "We were confident in what we could do, especially in the passing game.
"We had some early success, so we didn't have to abandon the run like we did last week. We stuck with, and we controlled the clock."
The Steelers dominated time of possession, 38:44 to 21:16 — including 10:01 in the third quarter.
Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians finally called for a screen pass midway through the third quarter with the Steelers marching toward a touchdown, a 2-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Wallace.
Mendenhall caught the ball in the left flat, then circled back right. He sliced through two defenders to pick up 16 yards and a first down to the Seattle 11, but guard Doug Legursky was hit with a clipping penalty to negate the gain.
Legursky's penalty was reflective of an offensive line that had, at best, an uneven performance.
Yet the Steelers didn't abandon the running game as they had in the past. They kept grinding even though Mendenhall was cut down short of the goal line on fourth down on the Steelers' first possession.
"We can't give up our running game," Redman said. "We just can't go five-wide and throw the ball. The run is what sets up the passing game."
Steelers vs. Seahawks 9/18/11
The Steelers defeat the Seattle Seahawks, 24-0, Sunday September 18, 2011 at Heinz Field.