In this era of NFL running backs sharing workloads, Pittsburgh’s use of Rashard Mendenhall last season was a bit of an anomaly.
His 324 carries was fourth in the NFL; no one else on the Steelers had more than 53 carries. If you include the playoffs, Mendenhall’s workload went all the way up to 385 carries.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t apologize for the approach or plan to change it.
“You know, that’s why you draft running backs, to hand them the ball,” Tomlin told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Wear and tear is part of the game, especially at that position. You worry about it, but it doesn’t dominate your thought. It’s just part of the game.”
Tomlin originally envisioned spreading carries around more, but he says reality has a way of changing plans. If anything, Tomlin says he only plans to expand Mendenhall’s role and build the team’s run game around his “unique talents.” He hopes Mendenhall becomes more of a leader.
Tomlin famously once said he wouldn’t hesitate to run Willie Parker “until the wheels came off.” And they did — Parker is out of the league.
Mendenhall is only turning 24 years old this year and his wheels should remain in place for a while. Tomlin plans to get as much use out of him as possible in the meantime.