Unofficially, Mendenhall due to start vs. Detroit
Rashard Mendenhall, from outhouse to penthouse in seven days, will make his second consecutive start for the Steelers Sunday in Detroit.
No one said that officially, but the eyes and ears do not lie, and neither does Willie Parker's big left toe. That turf toe remained painful after Parker ran a little while his teammates practiced yesterday.
You do not have to be Mike Tomlin to make this call. Even Parker understands.
"You know what type of game this is; if you don't play, somebody else comes in and they pretty much shine, that's the nature of the beast," Parker said. "I have to get back on the field and do what I do."
It's possible he may not get that chance at all on Ford Field's poor artificial turf. If Parker continues to stay away from practice, there is nothing to stop the Steelers from again making the Isaac Redman-Nick Eason switch to give them another healthy running back Sunday, just in case.
The plaudits for Mendenhall's performance Sunday night against San Diego continued to roll in. The NFL picked him as its AFC offensive player of the week after he rushed for 165 yards (11th most in club history), two touchdowns, caught two passes for 26 yards and threw several big blocks.
Parker admired it from the sideline.
"I think that was real good, just to have somebody run the way he did the other night," Parker said. "I think that was a great thing for us and the team, something for us to build on.
"It was definitely a game-builder. Our offense, as far as running the ball, we're still on the incline."
Parker said he has had turf toe before, but never like this.
"It's pretty much a sprained toe, pretty much a boo-boo -- that's what my mama used to call it when I was young. It's just something you have to deal with. It's like a sprained ankle. Your toe holds 80 percent of your body weight as far as agility and everything. I have to be smart in handling this situation."
While Parker said he wants to play, "I just have to be smart about it because I have turf toe, and that's nothing to play with."
All in all, linebacker Larry Foote said the good far outweighed the bad during his stay with the Steelers except for that one final move. It did not come fast enough for him.
"They screwed me a little bit," Foote said yesterday during a conference call with the media here.
Foote saw the handwriting on the wall in the form of first-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons. He saw his own salary at $3 million. He knew what might happen next, and he kept badgering the Steelers to release him before the team did. He was concerned that third-year man Timmons would start, he would be left with the crumbs and that they would ask him to take a pay cut later in the year so it might be hard for him to go elsewhere.
"That was my concern," Foote said. "I heard through the league that stuff like that happens, but they reassured me that that was not going to happen.
"When I talked to Mike Tomlin, they told me that we were going to do the same things as last year; Timmons was going to play on third down, you are going to be in our base and they were telling me that we aren't going to release you and you aren't going to take a pay cut. So they told me that and I only have got to take his word, he never lied to me before, but I know this is a business."
They waited until after the draft, then cut him after finding no takers in any trades.
"I was pleading with Kevin Colbert, let's get it done," Foote said of the Steelers' director of football operations. "They said 'no' at first, and the most disappointing thing was that they let me go after the draft.
"After free agency was over with, I was thinking, well, maybe before the draft, but then they waited to release me after the draft. That was a little bummer because teams had spent their money and plus they had linebackers in the draft. But it worked out how God wanted it to happen, and I got my wish to come home and play."
Foote, a Detroit native, plays middle linebacker in the Lions' 4-3 defense. He leads them with 36 total tackles, with 23 solo tackles, and he has one sack.
He has also overlooked the final misunderstanding with the Steelers, partly because he got his wish to play for the Lions and partly because of the hardware he took with him from Pittsburgh.
"I have nothing but respect for that organization. It was definitely a plus, I made some money and I won some Super Bowls. You can't ask for more than that."
Troy Polamalu joined his teammates on the field for the first time since he sustained a sprained MCL in his left knee in the opener Sept. 10.
Whether he plays Sunday in Detroit is another matter.
Polamalu went through a limited practice yesterday, staying out of the main team drills on defense. He did not speak afterward about how he felt, but fellow safety Ryan Clark was not bashful about what he thinks Polamalu should do.
"I don't want him to [play], because I'm his friend," Clark said, emphasizing the artificial turf at Ford Field. "I tore my PCL a few years ago, and it's just tough to run on. It's a pounding. Some of [the artificial fields] aren't very fluffy, so it's hard.
"You know Troy, he's a competitor; if he can come back this week, he is. I know he's going to practice and stuff. But me, personally, I would rather have him for the last 10 or the last stretch than have him come out and injure himself again and set himself back."
The Steelers say they are preparing to face quarterback Matthew Stafford Sunday, but they are more likely to see Daunte Culpepper.
Stafford, the first pick in the 2009 draft, did not practice with the Lions yesterday, and there's increasing speculation in Detroit the rookie will not play against the Steelers. He has a knee injury.
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (thigh) also did not practice for the Lions.
First Published October 8, 2009 12:00 am