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Steelers Blog

Inside the locker room: Rashard Mendenhall

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 19, 2012 – 4:00 pm

Running back Rashard Mendenhall was back on the practice field on Wednesday after serving a one-game suspension. Mendenhall spoke to the media following practice.

Is it nice to be back at practice?


Have you talked to your teammates about what happened?
No, not really. I talk to these guys every day.

Why didn’t you show up for the Chargers game?
I’m really not trying to get back into that.

How do you feel about being back?
It’s good to be back.

You weren’t dressed the last few games, do you feel you will this week?
I don’t know what is going to happen, I just take it day by day.

Have your teammates been supportive?
Yeah, they are my friends. They are my teammates. I talk to them all of the time so nothing has changed.

How do you feel physically and if they ask you to carry the ball on Sunday how is it going to go?
I have felt great this whole time. I have worked this whole time. I am ready for whatever I am called to do.

Do you feel as good as you have been? Are you over the Achilles stuff and feel like you did when you played against the Eagles?
I felt like I have gotten better every week since then and I am just continuing to do that.

Has this been a nightmare season for you?
No, not at all. I can see why it appears to be that on the outside, but no, not at all. Nothing has changed this year for me the way I work, the way that I prepare and the way that I grow. It’s been that same thing. Outside circumstances have been different, but for me it hasn’t been that at all.

Coach (Mike) Tomlin said you would have a chance to redeem yourself. Do you think that is still the case?
I don’t know the decisions up there and how they are made. For me, from the day I got here I just continue to work as hard as I can and do everything I can. With that I am okay and happy. I can look at that and be pleased with that. I will just continue to work and whatever happens, whatever opportunities are in front of me, they will show themselves. 

Coach Tomlin said there was some frustration on your part. Is that with the injuries, the inactives or what?
I wouldn’t use that word. There is a lot of thought that goes into anything I do. For me, I am just back and taking it a day at a time.

Do you look forward to a chance to redeem yourself and help this team make the playoffs?
I don’t know what chances or opportunities I will get, but I just want to continue to work every day and offer whatever I can.

What was the reason you didn’t show up?
I am not really going into that. I am just continuing to work every day like I always have been and continuing to grow.

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Giving teams a lot to prepare for

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 7, 2012 – 9:56 pm

Jonathan Dwyer knows when Rashard Mendenhall is healthy that the former number one draft pick will be back in the starting lineup. But even then, he can see everyone getting their shot in the backfield.

“We’ll just be a running back by committee,” said Dwyer. “Whoever has the hot hand gets more of the carries.”

Over the last three weeks Dwyer has had two 100-yard plus games, while Isaac Redman turned in a 147-yard performance against the New York Giants while Dwyer was injured.

Dwyer expects to be back on the field this week, while Mendenhall is also working his way back, possibly giving the team a full stable of healthy backs for the first time all season in a few weeks. If that happens, Dwyer feels the best plan of action is to give everyone a shot at carrying the ball, until someone gets going.

“It’s good to rotate, let everyone get a feel for it,” said Dwyer. “Everybody has a role, whatever that is. Whoever gets that feeling gets the majority of the carries and another guy rolls in when he gets tired. With all of us able to make plays when we touch the ball, who knows what can happen.”

Dwyer credits the recent success of the ground game with getting comfortable with Todd Haley’s playbook and finding running plays that work to the strengths of the backs.

“We just found things we like to do,” said Dwyer. “Coach Haley has a feel for us now. He knows how we are as individuals and he is going off of that.

“I had two big games and Isaac had a phenomenal game last week. It shows how deep the running back position is and teams have to prepare for all three of us and Baron (Batch), Will (Johnson) and (Chris) Rainey. They have to prepare of all of us.”

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Mendenhall plans on playing

Posted by Teresa Varley on October 15, 2012 – 7:23 pm

A week ago the Steelers were at full strength at running back, but going into Sunday’s game against the Bengals the rotation there is uncertain.

Rashard Mendenhall, who returned from his ACL injury against the Eagles two games ago, injured his Achilles against the Titans on Thursday night, while Isaac Redman suffered an ankle injury.

Mendenhall, though, thinks he will be ready to go this week.

“I’m planning on being able to play,” Mendenhall said after Monday’s practice. “It’s a little tight. We’re just kind of working through it this week. I’m just taking it day-by-day. It’s not something I’m worried about too much.

“I know we’re both trying to get back. We’ll be day-to-day. Come Sunday night we’ll know for sure.”

Mendenhall said the Achilles injury could have resulted from a combination of favoring other areas coming off the ACL injury, as well as the short week coming back from playing on a Sunday to Thursday. He knows it’s a risk that comes with the game.

“I’m not frustrated at all,” said Mendenhall. “It’s just part of it. I’m going to continue to work. I’ve been in this position before. I’m just going to continue to work out of it. This process is a long process coming off of a major surgery so I’m just continuing to get better with it.

“With every extra day I’m just trying to do everything I can – work out, get extra treatment, different things like that.”

If either Mendenhall or Redman can’t go on Sunday, the Steelers do have a stable of running backs ready to carry the load, including Baron Batch, Chris Rainey and Jonathan Dwyer, who has been inactive since Mendenhall has returned to action.

“It’s just been a numbers game,” said Dwyer. “I don’t play as much special teams as the other guys. I am just preparing for it and am excited to get the opportunity. I just have to do what I have been doing, I try to make some type of play to get the team going and do whatever I can to help us get the win.”

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Injured players ready for Sunday

Posted by Teresa Varley on October 5, 2012 – 2:45 pm

Linebacker James Harrison, running back Rashard Mendenhall and safety Troy Polamalu are all listed as probable for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field.

Harrison, who hasn’t played yet this season, said his knee felt good in practice this week and he is ready to go.

“Yeah, definitely I will be ready for Sunday,” said Harrison. “It felt good, especially on Monday. I was able to make it through the week without any problems. I was able to cope with what my knee was doing. I wasn’t reacting to it as much as I had before. I am just happy to be able to get back out there and contribute to help this team win.

“I will play as much as my wind will allow me to play. Obviously, I haven’t really done anything since last postseason. I am going out there and seeing what happens. It’s really just my first game back. We will see.”

Mendenhall also hasn’t played yet this season and said he won’t know how things are until the game gets rolling, a game which he isn’t sure how much playing time he will see or what the rotation at running back will be.

“I’m not sure who we’ll have playing,” said Mendenhall. “The game will tell us that and take care of itself. We’re all prepared. Come game time, it will all unfold.”

Polamalu is the only one of the three returning this week who has played this season, starting in the season opener in Denver. He deferred to Coach Mike Tomlin regarding his ability to play Sunday, but did say he is feeling better. Now the key is the kind of impact the three players will have upon their return.

“We’ll see,” said Polamalu. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. Just because people have played and their resumes are out there doesn’t really mean much.”

Harrison said that there is no added pressure this week with the three players returning, but instead it’s just a matter of everyone focusing on doing their job.

 “There’s no more pressure than every other week,” said Harrison. “Our guys just need to go out there and execute their jobs. We have a lot of guys going out there and trying to do more than their part. With them trying to do that, they are not taking care of their jobs.”

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Tomlin expects injured players back

Posted by Teresa Varley on October 2, 2012 – 12:16 pm

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin expects to have all on hands on deck in practice on Wednesday, after everyone except Marcus Gilbert participated in Monday’s practice. And better yet, if all goes well in practice the rest of the week, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall could all play on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field.

“Based on what I am looking at on how we worked yesterday I think that is a safe assessment,” said Tomlin when asked if they will play Sunday. “We will watch these guys as we proceed throughout the week. All guys have performed well and were able to get through practice and we’re optimistic that they’re going to be full participants.”

Polamalu has missed the last two games after playing against Denver, and Harrison has not seen game action yet this season, but both practiced Monday. Rashard Mendenhall also continued to practice, even though he has yet to see game action as well.

“Coming off the bye, I think it’s been a productive bye for us,” said Tomlin. “We’ve had the opportunity to work on some elements that we feel like need to be addressed in all three phases. At the same time we were able to get some of our injured men back.”

Harrison practiced last week as well, and worked out during the team’s bye. While Tomlin had not talked to Harrison yet to see how his knee responded to practicing, as he has had setbacks previously, he does know having him back healthy is a good thing.

“If he plays well and plays like James is capable of playing, obviously he’ll be an asset to us,” said Tomlin. “But, we’re not going to make excuses and we’re not going to sit around and wait for those that are not participating to participate. Injuries and so forth are a part of the game. When we have those guys, we’ll appreciate it. When we don’t have them, we’ll remain steadfast in our goals and our objectives.”

Having a healthy team will be a key for the Steelers, who are looking to get back on the winning track this week against the Eagles.

“It’s a big week for us,” said Tomlin. “Those are exciting things for us as we push into this week. It’s a big week for us coming off our last performance, but also having an opportunity to play at home in front of our fans against a really good team in the Philadelphia Eagles.”

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Getting Rashard back would be a boost

Posted by Teresa Varley on October 1, 2012 – 7:56 pm

It was back to business for the Steelers on Monday, after a four-day break for the bye week, and as they prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles the hope is they will get some of their injured players back on the field Sunday.

Among those who haven’t played yet this season, but whose return would be a huge boost to the offense, is running back Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall has been out since suffering an ACL injury at the end of last season and his presence could help a ground game that is averaging only 65 yards per game through three games.

“Rashard is one of the best in the league,” said wide receiver Mike Wallace. “When you get a guy back like that who is very explosive, has really good feet, a lot of vision, it’s going to boost our team.”

While his teammates talk about a potential return for him, Mendenhall still isn’t sure if he will be ready to play this week.

“I can’t say that,” said Mendenhall. “I am just trying to improve and take it one day at a time. We are all gauging it, going through it. When the time is ready I think we all need to be clear on it. We’re just taking it one day at a time. We will see.”

Mendenhall said he is preparing the same this week as he did week one of the season when he wasn’t able to play, but he is definitely making progress and benefitted from the days off during the bye week.

“It felt good,” said Mendenhall. “We are back at it, still taking it one day at a time. I’ve been improving every day. I am going to continue to work and prepare for the game, like I have every week.”

Safety Troy Polamalu hasn’t played since the first week of the season in Denver, and linebacker James Harrison has been sidelined all season as well. Polamalu, like Mendenhall, took advantage of the rest during the bye week.

“The more time off, the better,” said Polamalu. “It was a pretty early bye week for us but hopefully we can get some momentum going and we will see how this week turns out for us.”

Polamalu, who also didn’t comment on his status for this Sunday, instead deferring to Coach Mike Tomlin on whether or not he will be able to play, said he doesn’t know what kind of impact having him or Harrison back on the field will have on the defense until it actually happens.  

“I don’t know,” said Polamalu. “We will see once we all get on the field together. There are some other new faces out there that have become starters. It’s about how all 11 guys are playing together.”

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A time to heal for several Steelers

Posted by Teresa Varley on September 26, 2012 – 9:16 pm

Steelers’ players have the next four days off for their bye week, giving several who are ailing a chance to get healthy. Among those the team hopes to get back on the field after the bye are linebacker James Harrison, safety Troy Polamalu and running back Rashard Mendenhall.

“It would help,” said linebacker LaMarr Woodley, speaking about Harrison and Polamalu. “Those are our key guys. That makes a big difference for the defense.  Having them back will be great for our defense.  The bye week is always great. Having a few injuries, Troy and James, gives guys time to heal up and rest and come back and play.”

Harrison was on the field for the first time on Tuesday, but didn’t participate on Wednesday. Polamalu worked on both days.

While both players are expected to make an impact upon their return whenever that might be, their teammates also know they can’t depend solely on them to turn things around defensively.

“We have to get them back out there,” said safety Ryan Clark. “But I don’t think it’s fair to put that much pressure on those guys to say you are why we are not playing well. You can’t say the standard is the standard and say we aren’t playing well because they aren’t there. You can’t do that. The guys who are on the field need to perform.”

Mendenhall has been practicing regularly, even getting more physical contact for the first time last week. With the running game not getting in gear yet, having him back soon would be a welcome addition.

“Rashard is one of the best in the league,” said wide receiver Mike Wallace. “When you get a guy back like that who is very explosive, has really good feet, a lot of vision, it’s going to boost our team.”

The Steelers take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 7 at Heinz Field and getting any or all three of the injured players back for that game is something teammates are hoping for.

“You get a player like Rashard back, James and Troy and that will provide us a spark,” said wide receiver Antonio Brown. “They are key factors on our team and provide us an opportunity to win games. It will be great to have them back and this gives them time to recover.”

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Door is still open for injured players

Posted by Teresa Varley on September 4, 2012 – 12:19 pm

The Steelers will be without guard David DeCastro and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester this week against the Broncos as they are both coming off surgery, but there is still hope for some other injured players to be on the field Sunday night.

Linebackers James Harrison and Jason Worilds and running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman have not been ruled out by Coach Mike Tomlin.

“They all worked in some capacity yesterday and we are going to leave the door open for all of those men and see where the week takes us,” said Tomlin. “A lot of their availability will depend on how they respond to a workload. We provided a workload for them yesterday. Today is a player’s day off. We’ll see where that takes us as we push into tomorrow and cumulatively throughout the week.”

Safety Robert Golden and cornerback Curtis Brown both practiced on Monday after being injured in the preseason and also could be available on Sunday night.

“Those (two) guys are less likely to miss PT, but some of the other guys I mentioned earlier are closer than others and we’ll just monitor their progress and make the decision as we push forward through the week and base that determination on how they respond to the work,” said Tomlin. “It was good work yesterday.

“I am encouraged by the work of all of those men, particularly the two linebackers who missed quite a bit of time during the preseason in James Harrison and Jason Worilds. I thought A – they were relatively sharp from an assignment standpoint and B – I thought they displayed pretty good overall physical conditioning for a couple of guys that hadn’t logged very much in helmet time in the early portions of the season. I am encouraged by that front.”

The Steelers will be without free safety Ryan Clark, who is unable to play in the high altitude in Denver because of complications he has due to the sickle cell trait.

“That has been our position in the past and will continue to be our position,” said Tomlin of Clark not playing. “Ryan understands that and is supportive of that. I am sure he will be a big supporter of his teammates, not only in the stadium this week but in preparation. He always has been that guy and I expect that to continue.”

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Mendenhall not sure of status for Broncos game

Posted by Teresa Varley on September 3, 2012 – 2:30 pm

Running back Rashard Mendenhall continues to work his way back from his knee injury, and while he practiced on Monday he doesn’t know if he will be ready to go against the Broncos on Sunday night.

“I’m not sure. I’m just working through it every day,” said Mendenhall. “I’m just going a day at a time. It depends on how it feels and we’ll see where we go.

“I’m just taking it a day at a time. It feels great. Everything I’ve been asked to do, I’ve been able to do it and do it well.”

Mendenhall said he hasn’t had any setbacks with the knee, and “it’s felt great” since he has returned to practice, but he hasn’t set a timetable for when he will return to game action.

“It feels good,” said Mendenhall. “From the beginning of this whole thing, I never had anything in my mind, I never set any goals. I just took it a day at a time and focused on that and I was able to build on that.”

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Mendenhall taking it one day at a time

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 23, 2012 – 4:13 pm

Rashard Mendenhall is back at practice, working in pads, only seven months after tearing his ACL. And his teammates are happy to see him out there.

“It feels good to see him back in a uniform,” said fellow running back Isaac Redman. “When a guy goes down with that kind of injury it always feels good to see him back on the field with the guys, working his way back.

“He is getting there. He doesn’t want to rush it, but at the same time he wants to get back and help this team win. He is a hard worker and it’s killing him not to be able to be out there helping the team.”

Mendenhall said he isn’t putting a timetable on his return to playing, not saying if he thinks he will be ready for the season opener against Denver.

“I don’t look that far down the line,” said Mendenhall. “I just take it one day at a time.”

When he does return he should be comfortable with Todd Haley’s offense as even while he hasn’t been playing, he has been involved in the running backs and team meetings. 

Football is still football and I’ve been involved with meetings and everything to this point,” said Mendenhall. “Everything is natural. It’s just getting back in the swing of things from a competition standpoint.”

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Mendenhall confident in his progress

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 21, 2012 – 3:06 pm

Running back Rashard Mendenhall was taken off the physically unable to perform list last week, and is now moving forward in his comeback from a torn ACL suffered in the regular season finale against Cleveland last year.

“I have been doing different things out there,” said Mendenhall on Tuesday. “It’s just the next step in my recovery and I am just taking it as it goes.”

Mendenhall hasn’t set any timetable on when he will return to game action, as this is simply the next step.

“I don’t set goals,” said Mendenhall. “I just take it day by day and let it go however it goes.”

He is happy with the progress he is making though, and is taking it to the next level now.

“I am sprinting, cutting,” said Mendenhall. “I have been doing all of that, now it’s just amped up a bit. Everything I have done I have been confident in so I am just trying to push it a little bit more.”

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Mendenhall making progress

Posted by Teresa Varley on August 1, 2012 – 2:07 pm

Running back Rashard Mendenhall, who is currently on the PUP list as he recovers from an ACL injury in the regular season finale last year, said on Wednesday that he is coming along well from the injury.

“I have cut,” said Mendenhall. “It’s gone well. I am right on schedule. I am getting it back to normal strength and to fire like normal.”

Mendenhall didn’t specify what that schedule is, though, not setting any kind of timetable for his return.

“Not at all but everything is going well right now so I feel good about that,” he said. “Being 100 percent is important. Everything right now is hard to determine, but it’s all going well right now and that is my focus, doing everything I can right now.”

So far the only real battle he has faced is the physical side, as he said the mental part has not been tough and he hasn’t thought about what it will be like when he first gets back on the field.

“Mentally it hasn’t been difficult at all,” he said. “It’s just getting your leg back to normal.  I haven’t had to face that so far and I don’t think that will be much of a problem. I am not worried about it.”

He isn’t the first player to battle back from an ACL injury, with fellow running back Baron Batch having just done so, so he knows there are plenty of teammates to talk to about the challenges.

“There are a handful of guys around here who have been through it so I have talked to them about it,” said Mendenhall. “It’s the same process for everybody so I have an understanding of it.”

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Mendenhall update

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 1, 2012 – 4:59 pm

RB Rashard Mendenhall’s return is questionable – appeared headed to the locker room.

In his place Isaac Redman picks up a key first down on 4th and 1.

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Mendenhall injured

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 1, 2012 – 4:50 pm

RB Rashard Mendenhall was injured near the end of the first quarter. Isaac Redman now in the game.  At the end of the first quarter –  Steelers 0, Browns 0.

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Fans can vote for Rashard

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 28, 2011 – 1:29 pm

Running back Rashard Mendenhall is nominated for the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week for his performance against the St. Louis Rams.

Mendenhall had 18 carries  for 116 yards and a score in the Steelers’ 27-0 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Fans can vote for Mendenhall  until Friday at noon by clicking on Vote for Rashard.

Junior Achievement has partnered with FedEx and if Mendenhall wins, $2,000 will be donated to Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania.

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Mendenhall on a roll

Posted by Teresa Varley on December 4, 2011 – 1:52 pm

Rashard Mendenhall scored his second touchdown of the day, a five-yard run, as the Steelers lead Cincinnati 14-0 with 10:12 to play in the second quarter.

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