By Mike Bires
From all indications, Rashard Mendenhall will make his second straight start Sunday when the Steelers play in Detroit.
For one thing, Willie Parker missed practice again Wednesday with his turf toe injury.
So he hasn’t even practiced or played any football since the Sept. 27 loss in Cincinnati.
Also, Mendenhall was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his 165-yard, two touchdown performance in the 38-28 win over San Diego this past Sunday.
Why would a coach not start a healthy running back coming off such a dynamic performance?
Tuesday at his weekly press conference, Mike Tomlin side-stepped any controversy regarding who’ll start at running back against the 1-3 Lions.
“We haven’t pondered the division of labor to this point. The most important thing is we find out the level of availability of Willie and then we’ll make that our determination,” Tomlin said. “At this point, the ball is in Rashard’s hands until we get further information in regards to Willie Parker.”
Mendenhall, the Steelers’ first-round pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, wants to get as many carries as he can in Detroit regardless of if he starts or backs up Parker. His confidence has skyrocketed since running through and over the Bengals.
“I was able to be me and be comfortable,” Mendenhall said. “All I wanted was a chance to be out there and to play and for people to see me and who I am because people haven’t seen me play too much to this point. It was just me wanting to be great and to produce at this level.”
“That’s something I’ve been working towards ever since I’ve been here.”
FOOTE ANXIOUS TO FACE FORMER TEAMMATES
When he played for the Steelers, Larry Foote was an unspectacular but solid middle linebacker and definitely one of the team’s best trash talkers.
Not that he’s playing middle linebacker in the Lions’ 4-3 scheme, Foote is playing well. He leads the team with 23 solo tackles and 11 assists.
And on Sunday at Ford Field, he promises to be his usual boisterous self.
Who might be Foote want to talk trash with?
“Everybody,” he said during a conference call with beat reporters who cover the Steelers regularly.
“There is going to be more with the defense of course. But I am going to be watching for Hines Ward. He told me last year that if we ever play each other he wasn’t going to crack back on me, so I hope he stays true to his word.
“Oh yeah, I will trash talk with Ben.”
Roethlisberger didn’t speak to the media before or after Wednesday’s practice. But Ward did.
“Yeah, I did tell Foote that I wouldn’t crack back on him,” Ward said with a laugh. “But there are times I may have to block. But it will be good to see him. He’s a good guy. And he’s a great trash talker. I’m sure he’ll be chirping away out there.”
STEELERS WALK THE RUNWAY IN ANNUAL FASHION SHOW
With tight end Heath Miller and cornerback Ike Taylor serving as honorary co-captains, most of the Steelers will be dressed to kill Thursday for their annual Steelers Style Fashion Show.
The event takes place at 6 p.m. Thursday at Heinz Field.
“It’s for a good cause, and it’s good that to spend time with your teammate away from football,” Miller said. “Knowing that we are helping such worthwhile charities is motivation enough to get involved. It’s also a great way to create fun memories as a group with your teammates, their families and our fans.”
The Steelers participating in the fashion show will model a variety of styles ranging from formal wear to jerseys to sideline gear.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and The Cancer Caring Center.
“There is so much energy at the fashion show, that it is impossible not to have a great time while helping such worthy cause,” said Taylor.