By Edward Lee
6:45 AM EDT, September 10, 2011
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall has finished in the top 20 in rushing in each of the last two seasons. But his success has not come at the expense of the Ravens.
In six career meetings against the Ravens, Mendenhall has never reached the 100-yard mark in rushing. Although he has scored five touchdowns, Mendenhall has been relatively contained by the Ravens.
“I think the big thing with him is just keeping him in the box and not letting him bounce,” outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “We’ve done a good job of setting the edge, and our guys up front have stayed square. If he has green grass, he’s going to find it, and he loves to bounce it, and he’s got speed to hit that corner. So we’ve got to keep him in the box.”
Unleashing Mendenhall would be beneficial for Pittsburgh. Although quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a plethora of speedy wide receivers to throw to, getting consistent production from Mendenhall would make the offense much more dangerous.
“Well, we always want to be a very balanced offense, and that includes all of our runners – Rashard, Mewelde [Moore], Isaac Redman, whoever is in there toting the ball,” Roethlisberger said. “We expect them to give us their best, and we need to be balanced to play a team like this because if we just sit back there and pass, they can tee off on those pass rushers like [outside linebacker Terrell] Suggs and [defensive tackle Haloti] Ngata and [inside linebacker] Ray [Lewis] getting in there [who] make it very difficult for us. So we have to try to be as balanced as we can against these guys.”
Mendenhall figures to get his fair share of scrutiny from the Ravens on Sunday. But Suggs said the defense won’t overestimate Mendenhall.
“He’s an NFL back,” Suggs said nonchalantly. “I don’t think too highly of anybody I play. It’s going to be a task every week. One week is Mendenhall. Next week is [the Tennessee Titans’] Chris Johnson. The next week it’s [the St. Louis Rams’] Steven Jackson. We have our work cut out every week. A back is a back.”
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