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Mike Tomlin may ride Rashard Mendenhall until the wheels come off

Super Bowl XLV Getty Images

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.

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63 Responses to “Mike Tomlin may ride Rashard Mendenhall until the wheels come off”
  1. Al Davis says: Mar 27, 2011 1:50 PM

    Well guess whose gunna be back on my fantasy team?

  2. stoutfiles says: Mar 27, 2011 1:51 PM

    Of any position in the NFL, running backs should definitely save their money.

    Here’s looking at you, Tiki!

  3. profootballwalk says: Mar 27, 2011 1:52 PM

    Say goodbye to your career, Rashard. That sound you hear is the sound of millions of dollars flushing down the toilet.

  4. sdboltaction says: Mar 27, 2011 2:00 PM

    Sounds like the title of a kinky XXX flick

  5. thetruuf says: Mar 27, 2011 2:02 PM

    I was thinking about this same thing the other day while sitting on the can.. Why dont more teams do this? Use them for the length of their contract then let them walk? ..Jamal Lewis was done at 27 some could argue 26. .

  6. giveseanpaytonhisjuicyfruit says: Mar 27, 2011 2:02 PM

    At first I was like ewwwwww….

  7. forthelove says: Mar 27, 2011 2:02 PM

    Mendenhall should take a look at the stories of Willie Parker and Larry Johnson….

  8. skoobyfl says: Mar 27, 2011 2:05 PM

    Add a few more regular season games to his playoff workload & he’ll be good for at least a few more seasons.

  9. Deb says: Mar 27, 2011 2:06 PM

    Nooooooo! I don’t ever want to hear that expression again! I’m a Tomlin believer, but disagree with that philosophy. In his first season as head coach, he ran Willie Parker into a broken leg and the Steelers fell apart, making an early exit from the playoffs. And as you pointed out, Parker’s now out of the league.

    They’re people, not pack mules. We’re fortunate to have more than one solid back. Tomlin should let the backs share the load early in the season and save Mendenhall for later in the year when it really counts. Rashard is no good to us if he has a broken wheel in December.

  10. voxveritass says: Mar 27, 2011 2:07 PM

    until the wheels come off or the ball comes out. He is the ghost of Tim Worley.

  11. hoobsher says: Mar 27, 2011 2:12 PM

    and i wont hesitate to draft him with my 10th overall pick next year once again.

    i think i shall publicly congratulate myself and any others who did the same.

    great pick, matt. you too, everyone else.

  12. terrellblowens says: Mar 27, 2011 2:13 PM

    And Rashard Mendenhall will ride Ben Roethlisberger until his (blank) falls off.

  13. help me says: Mar 27, 2011 2:16 PM

    Riding Rashard Mendenhall until the wheels come off?

    That sounds like slavery.

  14. Al Davis says: Mar 27, 2011 2:17 PM

    Does anyone remember watching Rashard Mendenhall ride Big Ben until the wheels came off against the Jets?

  15. crimhollingsworth says: Mar 27, 2011 2:19 PM

    Until the wheels fall off or the ball pops out again.

  16. prmpft says: Mar 27, 2011 2:23 PM

    …good idea – that’s the fantasy football plan!!!

  17. thenewenglandpatriots12 says: Mar 27, 2011 2:26 PM

    Maybe Tomlin should consider reducing the amount of carries Mendenhall gets, especially after the fumble in the superbowl . . .

  18. fanoredsox says: Mar 27, 2011 2:28 PM

    I don’t understand his school of thought. Why would you drive a talented back into the ground when you could spread the load to two or three backs and prolong the life of the quality players that you have on staff. Meanwhile the running back himself will have the satisfaction of being 26 years old with no knees and knowing that he was privileged enough to run the ball for Tomlin for two or three years. All the while giving up any chance he has for a normal life. I sometimes don’t think that players/runningbacks understand the amount of pain they will endure for the rest of their lives.

  19. hobartbaker says: Mar 27, 2011 2:43 PM

    Good think Tomlin didn’t say “until his eyes pop”. Then we’d be worried.

  20. deljzc says: Mar 27, 2011 2:48 PM

    I can’t tell if you think this is a negative or not.

    I actually think you should use 1st round talent running backs exclusively AND run them until the wheels fall off.

    And whatever you do, don’t sign them to that huge second contract when they have 1200 carries under their belt.

    I never really understood the logic in NOT using the great ones a lot, only to fool yourself into giving them huge dollars and getting into sticky situations with having a $7 million player that you have to “handle” like an aging pitcher with a pitch count.

    If you aren’t getting 350-400 touches from your 1st round running backs, then you shouldn’t have drafted them in the first place.

  21. vahawker says: Mar 27, 2011 2:59 PM

    That certainly is promoting player safety.

  22. chrisbermansdoublechin says: Mar 27, 2011 3:00 PM

    one of the things that comes out of Tomlins mouth, that makes me think he’s a bit short sighted as a Head Coach … nothing like taking a back like Mendenhall & saying your going to shorten his career, or better yet, run him ragged in December, so that IF he gets hurt, your in trouble for the playoffs

  23. jc1958cool says: Mar 27, 2011 3:10 PM

    didn’t work in the super bowl! more carries more fumbles

  24. august1969 says: Mar 27, 2011 3:17 PM

    Dear Coach Tomlin,

    Thats a fantastic idea.

    Sincerely,

    Curtis Martins knees

  25. 66rick says: Mar 27, 2011 3:24 PM

    Just don’t fumble, idiot. You cost us #7.

  26. jhorton83 says: Mar 27, 2011 3:38 PM

    I’m sure Willie Parker really appreciates how that all turned out. They ran him until the wheels did come off and tossed him away once they were done with him. Now his career is likely over at age 30.

  27. iknowfootballandyoudont says: Mar 27, 2011 3:42 PM

    Players get paid very well. Nothing wrong with making him EARN his pay.

  28. ArtModellsPimp says: Mar 27, 2011 3:43 PM

    …not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  29. thefactor51 says: Mar 27, 2011 3:58 PM

    Willie Parker is the perfect example of why NFL players need to make as much as they can while they are in the league and save it. As soon as the NFL cannot use you anymore they spit you out.

  30. cylondetector says: Mar 27, 2011 3:59 PM

    Run him til his wheels fall off, dump him in the wreckers yard when his contract is up for renewal.

  31. qj1984 says: Mar 27, 2011 4:31 PM

    I dont see the problem. You play to win and your best players give you the best chance to win why not use them? And I dont see why this is a problem for the Steelers in particular.

    Run oriented teams like the Jets and Ravens HAVE to spread the carries around or their main guy will rack in 500 or more carries. The Steelers are kind of pass happy team and the only reason Mendenhall even reached 300 carries last year was because their QB situation was a mess the first 4 games of the season.

    Next season, if there is one, Mendenhall will probably take 90% or more of the carries at running back for the Steelers and he’ll probably still be in a dead heat with a guy like Shonn Green, who is splitting his teams carries 50-50, virtually.

  32. Deb says: Mar 27, 2011 4:35 PM

    Interesting.

    A few idiots figure Mendenhall’s one fumble is to blame for four quarters of offensive and defensive underperformance.

    The Fantasy Football guys, who apparently have ZERO love for the real game or interest in anything other than winning a few bucks for themselves, want to run the guy senseless.

    The Owner-Backers want to “run him til his wheels fall off, dump him in the wreckers yard when his contract is up” because there’s “nothing wrong with making him EARN his pay.”

    A team doesn’t have to destroy a player to get its money’s worth. Fortunately real coaches don’t make their decisions based on some fool’s Fantasy aspirations–though Goodell probably would. And once again we see the motivation for many Owner-Backers is nothing more than jealousy that someone else is talented enough to get paid for playing a game they’re not good enough to play. So they want to see him trashed and dumped in the wrecker’s yard. My what wonderful people you are! :roll:

  33. stellarperformance says: Mar 27, 2011 4:55 PM

    Deb says: Mar 27, 2011 4:35 PM
    Interesting.
    A few idiots figure Mendenhall’s one fumble is to blame for four quarters of offensive and defensive underperformance.
    —————————————————————

    Interesting.
    A few idiots still believe the Packers didn’t win the game…instead the Steelers lost it. Uh huh. Not the game I watched.

  34. tiredofthestupid says: Mar 27, 2011 5:00 PM

    @Deb

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. You TELL me you are going to do that, I either hold out to get cut/released or get a contract that will PAY me the amount of money that will ensure if I do get run into the ground, I don’t have anything to worry about.

    All these doofs who say things like you mentioned would probably poop themselves if THEIR bosses said, I will work you ridiculously hard, leave you broken and unable to make a living, AND THEN dump you on your ass.

    It’s wrong if it is Wal-Mart or the Pittsburgh Steelers. Human beings deserve better, no MATTER their pay grade.

  35. Deb says: Mar 27, 2011 5:16 PM

    @Ambrose …

    The last thing on my mind in that post was saying the Packers didn’t win the game. In fact, the Packers never crossed my mind. How many times do you need us to congratulate you on the win before you feel validated?

  36. Deb says: Mar 27, 2011 5:19 PM

    @qj1984 …

    The Steelers are a pass-happy team and the only reason Mendenhall reached 300 carries is because our QB situation was a mess after the first four games of the season?

    If you don’t get help at Charter, get help somewhere.

  37. shaggytoodle says: Mar 27, 2011 5:52 PM

    Well yeah, most people would work thier slaves to the bone.

  38. tatum064 says: Mar 27, 2011 7:01 PM

    Mike, the “wheels came off” v. Packers….remember you still have Jonathan Dwyer (who looked impressive in pre-season)

  39. tatum064 says: Mar 27, 2011 7:04 PM

    66rick says: Mar 27, 2011 3:24 PM

    Just don’t fumble, idiot. You cost us #7.
    4
    11

    =======================
    Troy Polamalu in pass coverage and Aaron Rogers torching your secondary cost you #6, not #7 – the Seahawk fraud win shouldnt count.

    It couldve been worse had the Pack not dropped so many accurate passes.

  40. memphisyinzer says: Mar 27, 2011 7:24 PM

    Bum Phillips ran Earl Campbell into the ground. Now, the man can’t walk without crutches / canes. Why wish that on anyone?

  41. crise40g says: Mar 27, 2011 7:33 PM

    In this day and age of RBBCs, nice to have another option of a true workhorse RB in my fantasy football league. Go get’em ‘Shardy!

  42. thefiesty1 says: Mar 27, 2011 7:49 PM

    Mendenhall is only 24. He’s got lots of carries still in the tank. Steelers found a COACH when the got Tomlin. Too bad so many other teams don’t have that caliber coach.

  43. touchdownroddywhite says: Mar 27, 2011 8:16 PM

    Didn’t Curtis Martin win the rushing title at the age of 31?

    Keep in mind that he’d already taken almost 3k carries when he did it. Sure it took him 370 carries to achieve, but he still averaged 4.6 ypc and scored 12 TD’s.

    I’d say Willie Parker just didn’t have a body built for football. Shoulda ran track, but then he wouldn’t have a nifty SB ring to show chicks at the bar.

  44. pondbridge says: Mar 27, 2011 8:16 PM

    Yes, Mendenhall will be burned out in four years. But in two of those years, the Steelers will win championship rings. Again.

    Cue the Herm Edwards ‘We play to win the game’, rant, please.

  45. hobartbaker says: Mar 27, 2011 8:19 PM

    Mendenhall could come up with some “eye popping” stats. I mean, look at him.

  46. hobartbaker says: Mar 27, 2011 8:21 PM

    It took Rash a long time to learn the play book. It involved so much study he was “bug eyed” by the time he finished.

  47. Deb says: Mar 27, 2011 8:23 PM

    tatum064 says:
    the Seahawk fraud win shouldnt count.

    ————————————————-

    Isn’t it a little late for kindergartners to be up?

  48. halftermguv says: Mar 27, 2011 8:31 PM

    Willie Parker’s career ended after his leg was broken in St. Louis when his cleats dug into the so-called “safe” field turf and did not give…his leg then broke. He came back the following year slower and unable elude tacklers and was ineffective thereafter.

    Mendenhall is bigger and stronger and runs over people. Quit blaming the coach for a field turf injury.

  49. ottomanismydog says: Mar 27, 2011 9:05 PM

    In Tomlin We Trust

  50. kyleortonsarm says: Mar 27, 2011 10:47 PM

    This is great news for the AFC North because if they keep handing this human turn over machine and sub par running back the ball Pittsburgh will only be shooting themself in the face during games. It’ll be like the joy of watching Mendenhall lose the ball in the Super Bowl but it’ll be a few times a week.

  51. brownsfrown says: Mar 28, 2011 1:28 AM

    Deb:

    Have read your comments for a long time, and this is the one which caused me to subscribe. I am a born Bama fan, so share your passion there. But I have to draw the line that you would defend Mendenhall so defiantly without acknowledging that he is a team commodity and therefore expendable.

    The absence of your usual objectivity is disappointing.

    And I thought you would be a great addition to the sensible beer-drinking, football-watching crowd!

    What was I thinking? : P

  52. hafftime says: Mar 28, 2011 6:28 AM

    did it ever occur to you fair weather steeler fans that the steelers don’t have another running back to split carries with mendenhall ?

  53. august1969 says: Mar 28, 2011 8:22 AM

    Tomlin is great. He was awesome in “the wood”.

  54. Deb says: Mar 28, 2011 2:29 PM

    @brownsfrown …

    Welcome to the commenting family! LOL

    Roll Tide!!

    @hafftime …

    What happened to Redman and Dwyer? And since the lockout has stopped any free-agent movement, we still have Mewelde Moore, too.

  55. stellarperformance says: Mar 28, 2011 4:52 PM

    Deb says:
    Mar 27, 2011 5:16 PM
    The last thing on my mind in that post was saying the Packers didn’t win the game. In fact, the Packers never crossed my mind. How many times do you need us to congratulate you on the win before you feel validated?
    ———————————————————

    One. As long as you drop the “underperforming” lifejacket. If the Packers hadn’t also “underperformed,” they would’ve won by three touchdowns.

  56. Deb says: Mar 28, 2011 5:37 PM

    Ambrose, you need to stop trolling Steeler threads searching for disrespect of the Packers where none is intended–especially in my posts. In that moment, my only thought was getting people off Mendenhall’s back. It irks me that they’d dump that loss on him. I rip O’Donnell on SBXXX, but it’s because of the jerk way he behaved about the Steelers after leaving the team. Even in his case, those INTs weren’t the whole story. You win as a team, you lose as a team.

    Yes, I do think we underperformed on both sides of the ball that night. That’s not being disrespectful to the Pack. Your statement is also true. If your offense hadn’t underperformed, it would have been a blowout.

    I’ve always felt your defense deserved the lion’s share of credit for the win. They turned in a stellar performance. That’s not disrespecting your offense. They did what was needed to win the game. That’s what matters. I’m not a whiny Seattle or Arizona fan. Green Bay beat us and I’ve had no problem admitting that or giving you guys props. The better team doesn’t underperform in the Super Bowl. The better team wins. But I need to be able to comment on my own team’s issues without having to parse my words for hypersensitive Pack fans who may be lurking nearby.

  57. qj1984 says: Mar 28, 2011 8:45 PM

    @Deb

    You quite frankly can not read. Because THIS, is not what I said:

    The Steelers are a pass-happy team and the only reason Mendenhall reached 300 carries is because our QB situation was a mess after the first four games of the season?

    If you don’t get help at Charter, get help somewhere.

    THIS is what I said:

    The Steelers are kind of pass happy team and the only reason Mendenhall even reached 300 carries last year was because their QB situation was a mess the first 4 games of the season.

    That’s a big difference. The education system in Pittsburgh must really suck.

  58. Deb says: Mar 28, 2011 11:07 PM

    @qj1984 …

    Can’t blame the education system in Pittsburgh because I didn’t go to school there. But it’s really unfair to blame any school system because I decided to be a smart ass without taking time to carefully read the post. The blame for that is all mine.

    Sorry :(

  59. luckywi says: Mar 29, 2011 11:36 AM

    The Owner-Backers want to “run him til his wheels fall off, dump him in the wreckers yard when his contract is up” because there’s “nothing wrong with making him EARN his pay.”

    Umm. They own the team. They pay the guy to do his job. He get’s his check every week. It’s called reality, deb. And Tomlin is sorely missed in Minnesota. He’s actually very good at his job. IF a player doesn’t want to get destroyed playing the game, they shouldn’t play the game.

  60. luckywi says: Mar 29, 2011 11:43 AM

    Oh, and aren’t you late for your appointment with your therapist?

  61. Deb says: Mar 29, 2011 1:15 PM

    I don’t need lectures in reality from a little boy with player-envy. If anyone is late for therapy it’s the guy who hates other men because they get paid for playing a game he’s not good enough to play. It’s nice that you miss Tomlin in Minnesota, but we’re quite happy with him in Pittsburgh. Too bad Wilf didn’t promote him when he had the chance. Then perhaps you, too, could have been to two Super Bowls in the last four years.

    As I said, I’ve been a Tomlin believer from the beginning, but sometimes he makes unfortunate statements. I don’t believe he intended to run the wheels off Willie Parker. As someone pointed out, the turf did in Parker, not Tomlin. Nor do I believe he intends to run Mendenhall into the ground. Today’s players are multi-million-dollar business assets; coaches have more sense than fools like you. They don’t treat that kind of investment like a disposable Dixie Cup.

  62. luckywi says: Mar 29, 2011 7:48 PM

    Player envy? Hardly. I guess you can just make stuff up if you want, but there was no hate, or player envy involved. It’s called reality deb. Check in sometime. It’s quite nice. You really do need help. You claim to be a writer. Where can I read some of your “work”? And commenting doesn’t count.

  63. Jack Burton says: Mar 31, 2011 1:13 PM

    Although Redman is a great 3rd down and goal line back he is damned slow and with our blocking shortfalls he will never be able to hit the edge like Mendy.
    I would honestly rather see Dwyer earn his damn spot in camp this year and have the year that Legarrett Blount had last year. Then this whole argument would be moot. He could stand to drop some weight.

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