I hadn’t realized how much I missed Rashard Mendenhall………until after he returned to the Steelers. Without Mendenhall, the Steelers struggled to gain yards on the ground. Calling their running attack impotent would have been an insult to impotence.
But in his first game back, Mendenhall reminded Steelers fans why he has been the starting running back for the Steelers since 2009. Mendenhall rushed for 81 yards on 14 carries. That may not sound particularly impressive, but it was an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer struggled to gain 5.8 millimeters per carry in Mendenhall’s absence.
Mendenhall would have had over 100 yards rushing in his return, but he had a 24 yard run called back due to an illegal formation penalty on Mike Wallace.
Not only did Mendenhall’s return rejuvenate the Steelers’ running game, but it also seemed to rejuvenate the Steelers’ offensive line. After each of his successful runs, you could see the offensive linemen smiling and congratulating Mendenhall.
But despite Mendenhall’s successful return, all did not go well for the Steelers. Troy Polamalu seemed to re-injure his calf muscle, and didn’t return to the game. LaMarr Woodley also went down with a hamstring injury.
The Steelers played pretty sloppily on both offense and defense, and they were penalized 9 times for 106 yards. Fortunately Michael Vick’s play was even sloppier than the Steelers’. Vick fumbled the ball 3 times during the game, and 2 of them were recovered by the Steelers.
The Steelers led the Eagles for most of the game. In fact, they led until there was only 6:38 left in the 4th quarter, when the Eagles scored a touchdown and took a 14-13 lead.
Fortunately, the Steelers still had time for one final drive. The Steelers marched down the field on a drive that consisted primarily of runs by Mendenhall and Isaac Redman. The Steelers drove the ball all the way to the Philadelphia 16 yard line, and then with 3 seconds left, they called on kicker Shaun Suisham to win the game. Suisham put the ball right between the uprights with no time left on the clock, and the Steelers had a 16-14 win.
The Steelers are now 2-2, and are in third place in the AFC North, behind Baltimore and Cincinnati. They only have 4 days to prepare for a Thursday night game against the Tennessee Titans.