Steelers Notebook: Mendenhall to get extended look
Quarterback Dennis Dixon won't play tomorrow because of his injured shoulder, but he did toss the ball around yesterday at practice. The Steelers play their third preseason game against Buffalo at Heinz Field.
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Running back Rashard Mendenhall will get a long look from the coaching staff tomorrow night in the Steelers' third preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
Mendenhall, the Steelers' first-round draft choice last year and the backup to Willie Parker, likely will get the start because Parker has not practiced all week due to a hamstring injury. Mendenhall has carried the ball 14 times for 50 yards in the first two preseason games, but this will be his first opportunity for extended play with the first-team offensive line should Parker not play.
"We'd like to get an extended look at Rashard Mendenhall whether Willie plays or not," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We want to see him run similarly to how he ran in [Washington last week]. I thought he was very decisive, he ran downhill. I liked the way he finished runs. He ran violently. He's had a good preseason. We just ask that he continue to do more of the same."
Mendenhall's role when the regular season begins is still to be determined. Parker will be the starter and veteran Mewelde Moore is entrenched as the third-down back. If Mendenhall wants to make a case for getting more carries in the regular season, a strong performance against the Bills would help his cause.
"I feel like I'm game ready," Mendenhall said. "I played the whole first half in the first two games. I've been out there. Every opportunity you have, you look forward to building on it. I feel good right now going into the season.
"It's a complete 180 from last year. I'm sure in my reads and having a full knowledge of the playbook. You're able to react and not think at all. It's a whole different mindset."
Undrafted rookie Isaac Redman made a name for himself early in training camp when he scored five times in seven attempts in a goal-line drill in practice, but Tomlin reiterated yesterday that he will have a hard time making the 53-man roster unless he demonstrates that he can do more than carry the ball into the end zone.
"A lot of times those roles are determined by other things," Tomlin said of which back will get the most carries near the goal line. "Is a guy good enough to make a 53-man roster? Is he capable of doing other things? A lot of times a guy that is a candidate gets an opportunity because he's a functional special teams player. That's not only what gets them on the team but gets them a game-day hat.
"Gary Russell was able to get an opportunity to be [the goal-line back] in the past because he was a reliable special teams player. ... I would imagine that if our goal-line runner is anyone other than Willie Parker or Rashard Mendenhall it will be because they're capable of doing other things. That's where we are with it."
Tomlin discussed the importance of being versatile with Redman before he addressed reporters yesterday. He said he was merely telling him what it will take for him to make the team.
"I'm not trying to motivate anyone through fear," Tomlin said. "I'm just trying to provide information. I provide similar information to guys like Frank Summers."
Summers, the Steelers' fifth-round draft pick out of UNLV, has been unable to practice much because of a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable for tomorrow's game.
Tomlin said Summers still has time to make an impression.
"It's not over yet," Tomlin said. "Everybody's story is left unwritten at this point. We have this game and then practice next week and then the Carolina game. I'm not ready to quantify a level of disappointment in regards to being able to look at him. He still has time."
Tomlin declared three players out for tomorrow night's preseason game and listed five others as questionable. Quarterback Dennis Dixon (shoulder), tight end Sean McHugh (knee) and offensive lineman Darnell Stapleton (knee) will not play.
Those who are questionable include: kicker Jeff Reed (ankle), receiver Santonio Holmes (back), running backs Parker (hamstring) and Summers (hamstring) and defensive tackle Steve McLendon (elbow).
First Published August 28, 2009 12:00 am