I’ve mentioned before that Mendenhall should be under consideration when it comes to the Steelers releasing players in order to A) get under the cap and B) find enough money to sign free agents currently on the roster as well as the draft picks and C) lose dead weight. Mike Wallace is to be tendered, and it’s no secret that the Steelers will need to find enough money to keep him – which is still a topic under debate if the team will even make an attempt to match another team’s offer. A few players still exist on the hypothetical ‘chopping block,’ and Mendenhall is indeed one of those guys…. at least on my list.
Yahoo! sports blogger, Lee Henderson, argues that one of the big reasons why the Steelers need to release Mendenhall is because the ground game is no longer important. That, because of a shoddy offensive line, Big Ben “is more likely to scramble and make a passing play than the running backs are able to escape rushers.” Really? I give him the poor pass blocking skills of our current line – they attributed to 40 sacks on their own franchise quarterback. But let’s get one thing straight – the running game wasn’t actually broken.
In a slumber perhaps… but not broken. A slumber mainly induced by Bruce Arians – we’ll call him the Ambien. A team that was usually 60/40 in favor of the run went to 60/40 in favor of the pass during his tenure. The running schemes were uninspiringly drawn up. Our featured back suddenly went from two straight seasons of being over 1,100 yards to barely getting over 900 yards and a serious case of happy feet at the line of scrimmage.
The passing game has never been better. The Steelers had two 1,000 yard receivers last season and has a ton of depth… or at least had prior to releasing depth. But the simple fact that this receiving core is the most dangerous the Steelers have ever had, is not reason why the Steelers should get rid of Mendenhall. Basics of football prove that a team needs to ‘stay honest’ and run the ball. Otherwise, defenses can drop more teams back in to coverage instead of having to worry about crowding the box. Ultimately, the Steelers would suffer dearly under Henderson’s logic – Mendenhall is questionable, the offensive line sucks anyways, Redman isn’t good enough, so Big Ben and the receivers will save the offense. Absolutely untrue.
We can only speculate what Haley will do as the new OC. Will he even out the offense? Or will he continue the path that Arians started? We can also only speculate Mendenhall’s condition when he returns this season – which no one is really sure when he will fully recover from his ACL injury. One things for certain, the Steelers need to drop more weight off the roster. Mendenhall’s inability to keep up production and coming off a severe injury is risky business to keep him around. Redman is certainly a capable back and needs a long stretch to get the wheels humming and truly prove that he’s a starter.
But one thing is for certain. Should the Steelers say adios to Mendenhall, it WON’T be because the Steelers can win football games by just throwing the football. They can’t. They need that running game. And when they get it, Rooney will be laughing all the way to the podium to lift another Lombardi Trophy.