Steelers' Mendenhall likely to start vs. Jags
Rashard Mendenhall practiced Wednesday, and he is expected to return to the starting lineup at 1 p.m. Sunday when the Steelers host the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Mendenhall missed last week's game with a hamstring injury. He is only averaging 3.0 yards per carry.
His struggles and coach Mike Tomlin's vague answer when asked Tuesday about Mendenhall's role has raised questions about how the Steelers will distribute carries between Mendenhall and the emerging Isaac Redman.
"If Rashard stays patient, he'll get his time," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
Redman, who made his first career start last Sunday, said he expects Mendenhall to start against Jacksonville. With Mewelde Moore likely to miss a second straight game because of a high ankle sprain, Redman will spell Mendenhall on Sunday and serve as the third-down back.
Mendenhall has gone over the 1,000-yard rushing mark in each of the past two seasons. The fourth-year veteran is considerably off that pace with only 173 rushing yards, but yesterday he downplayed his slow start.
"As a running back you have reads, you have plays and you slide and pick and find holes. When it works everybody loves it, when it doesn't it's bad," Mendenhall said. "We just keep everything in perspective."
> > Tomlin and the Jacksonville media didn't exactly play nice Wednesday. During a conference call with reporters who cover the Jaguars, Tomlin became exasperated following questions about the Steelers' playoff loss to Jacksonville in January 2008.
At one point he said, "I understand that might have been a big game in Jacksonville four years ago, but that's old news. Many of those guys are no longer here, and definitely many of the guys that were in Jacksonville are no longer there. Anybody got any questions relative to this week?"
After a long pause, Tomlin ended the call. Jacksonville reporters framed it as Tomlin had hung up on them.
> > Nose tackle Casey Hampton (shoulder), left guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (shoulder) were among the Steelers who didn't practice Wednesday because of injuries. Outside linebacker Jason Worilds (quadricep) did not practice, while free safety Ryan Clark (quadricep) and cornerback Cortez Allen (ankle) were limited participants. Defensive end Aaron Smith (foot) and outside linebacker James Harrison (eye) have already been ruled out for Sunday.
> > Jaguars starting outside linebacker Daryl Smith (head) and starting cornerback Derek Cox (groin) didn't practice Wednesday. Also sidelined for Jacksonville's entire practice were guard Jason Spitz (quadricep) and running back Montell Owens.
> > Roethlisberger, who threw five touchdown passes in a 38-17 win over the Tennessee Titans, was named AFC Player of the Week. Roethlisberger tied a career high in touchdown passes last Sunday despite playing on a sprained left foot. He became the first Steelers player to have multiple five-touchdown games in his career. Roethlisberger has thrown for 1,376 yards and eight touchdowns, with six interceptions. He has completed 63.4 percent of his passes.