Parker's return shouldn't affect Mendenhall
Willie Parker is expected to be back in action this Sunday when the Steelers take on the Browns, and I am curious to see how Pittsburgh handles this situation. Why? Because from my perspective, Rashard Mendenhall is the new feature back in town.
Mendenhall has already worked his way out of head coach Mike Tomlin’s doghouse, as he was basically benched for the Week 3 loss to the Bengals because of a poor week of practice. But, Mendenhall was inserted into the starting lineup after the Parker injury.
And, he responded. Against San Diego, Mendenhall rushed for 165 yards on 29 carries to go along with two scores. In another Steelers victory last week against Detroit, he ran for 77 yards on 15 carries and a score.
Folks, this league is based on production. You produce and you play. You don’t produce, well, then you sit. And it goes hand in hand with accountability and opportunity. Mendenhall took advantage of the opportunity presented by Parker’s injury, and if you are head coach Mike Tomlin, you have to reward that, right?
No one in the NFL is looking to go down with an injury, but when it happens, it opens the door for another player to step in and take your job.
Plus, the numbers tell the story. Parker has 52 carries on the season for 159 yards—good for an average of 3.1 yards per carry. On the other hand, Mendenhall has 51 carries for 287 yards—an average of 5.6 yards per carry. You want production? Well, look at the numbers, because in this league they don’t lie.
However, there is more to this situation. Parker is in the final year of his contract with the Steelers. He has struggled to stay healthy, and from my perspective his game has started to decline. Mendenhall, meanwhile, is a former first-round pick; a guy who is finally stepping up and playing like the Steelers expected, and he is the future of this backfield.
Sooner or later, first-round picks have to become starters.
I have heard opinions that they should split carries, but I’m not buying that. The Steelers look like a complete offense all of a sudden because they have an explosive running back that can hit the hole and produce once he hits the second level.
Yes, Parker will be needed as this season progresses, but it needs to be in a reduced role. Mendenhall is, and should be, the No.1 guy in Steel Town.
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