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Morning Steelers Buzz: Is 34 carries this season a big enough workload to start phasing Mendenhall out already?

There’s been some talk that if the Steelers get healthy immediately and stay healthy (getting Roethlisberger, Brown & Polamalu back) this team could go on a late run similar to the 2005 Super Bowl winning team that was 7-5 and went on to win eight straight games (including playoffs) en route to a Super Bowl title.
What this current Steelers team is similar to is not the 2005 Super Bowl winning team but is closer to the 2009 team (9-7) that was a middle of the road team who struggled to beat teams they should but we’re also a team that could beat any team on a given week.
We could very well have a situation where the Colts (7-4), Steelers (6-5), and Bengals (6-5) all finish 9-7. If all three were to finish 9-7, conference losses could come back to haunt Pittsburgh or Cincinnati for the final playoff spot as the Steelers and Bengals each have identical records of 6-5 and both teams have five conference losses. The Colts who are a game up on the Steelers and Bengals with a 7-4 record, have just three conference losses.
For Pittsburgh, the most important game down the stretch is going to be taking care of business at home in week 16 against the Bengals, claiming the head-to-head tiebreaker if there becomes a two team tiebreaker between the Steelers and Bengals.
Colts remaining schedule
Week 13: @ Detroit (4-7)
Week 14: vs Tennessee (3-8)
Week 15: @ Houston (10-1)
Week 16: @ Kansas City (1-10)
Week 17: vs Houston (10-1)
Analysis: The Colts are a different team on the road (2-3), especially defensively where they have given up a combined 135 points in their road losses to Chicago, New York Jets and New England. This week’s road contest vs Detroit will be a difficult game for Indianapolis and then they travel to Houston in week 15 where the Texans will be looking to lock up home field advantage and then travel to Kansas City the following a week. Indianapolis finishes the season with the conference leading Texans who might or might not be sitting players, depending on if they have home field secured.
Bengals remaining schedule
Week 13: @ San Diego (4-7)
Week 14: vs Dallas (5-6)
Week 15: @ Philadelphia (3-8)
Week 16: @ Pittsburgh (6-5)
Week 17: vs Baltimore (9-2)
Analysis: Three of the Bengals next four games are on the road with a West Coast trip to San Diego this week, followed by back to back road games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in week 15 and week 16. The Bengals host Dallas in week 14 and the Ravens in week 17. Cincinnati is surging but they don’t have a cupcake schedule the rest of the way.
Steelers Remaining Schedule
Week 13: @ Baltimore (9-2)
Week 14: vs San Diego (4-7)
Week 15: @ Dallas (5-6)
Week 16: vs Cincinnati (6-5)
Week 17: vs Cleveland
Analysis: Things set up favorable for Pittsburgh with three of their final four games at home but the biggest wildcard on Pittsburgh’s schedule is a week 15 trip to Dallas. You never know what team is going to show up and that could be an extremely difficult game.
When the Steelers release their depth chart every week, it usually means nothing but this weeks might have some substance. In today’s newly released depth chart, running back Rashard Mendenhall has been demoted to third on the depth chart behind Jonathan Dwyer who is now 1st on the depth chart and Isaac Redman is No. 2.
Just a few weeks ago when Mendenhall was working his way back from an achilles injury, the coaching staff made it known publicly that the staff views Mendenhall as the team’s best running back. “Rashard is the complete package — power, speed, explosiveness,” running backs coach Kirby Wilson told the Tribune-Review on Nov. 7. “He is the guy who can take a 10-yard run and make people miss and get 20 more. We think Jonathan has things that he is great at. Isaac has some things that he is great at. But Rashard is the complete package. Rashard has proved that he can do it over the long haul.”
It’s clear now Mendenhall is in Mike Tomlin’s dog house and is going to have to make the most of the possibly limited opportunities he gets Sunday vs Baltimore but if you view Mendenhall as your best back like the coaching staff does, how is 15 carries in the last two games since returning from an achilles injury and 34 carries all season after suffering a torn ACL last January, a big enough workload to start phasing him out? I would give Mendenhall a starters workload vs Baltimore and if he falters again, then begin to start phasing him more and go to Dwyer as the starter but to this point Mendenhall hasn’t received enough touches.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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