Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Things to be Hated: Puppies, Bunnies & Mendenhall

This article is for all the Rashard Mendenhall fans out there. So, those of you who crush him no matter how well he plays, y'all can go on doing what you've been doing. Tweet your hateration for him, or post your doctored pics to Facebook, or upload videos to YouTube of the reasons he sucks or...kick puppies or whatever it is you do to have fun. Just, please, don't tag me in those photos. Unless you superimpose me next to Rihanna or something. That I can deal with.

Ok, to back to you guys. I don't know about y'all, but I really don't get all the Mendenhall hate. I really don't. I mean, he just won the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award and they still won't give him his due. What's he done to deserve the hate? Is he fragile? Has he been injured a lot? Does he constantly turn the ball over? A low yards per carry average? Well let's just break it all down.

To give a bit of a background, Rashard Mendenhall played at the University of Illinois and in his final season with the Illini he rushed for a then school record 1,681 yards and 17 touchdowns with a 6.4 ypc average. Throughout the 13 game season, he also had 318 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 34 receptions, Mendenhall was then drafted 23rd overall by the Steelers in the 2008 NFL Draft and was looked at as being a complement to Pro-Bowl running back Fast Willie Parker.

An injury to Willie Parker, though, put Mendy, as fans have taken to calling him, into the starting lineup September 29, 2008 against the rival Baltimore Ravens. It didn't go well. He was forced to leave the game with a fractured shoulder in the third quarter after a huge hit by Steelers fans' favorite criminal, Ray Lewis. (Ok, ok..."accomplice") Season over. Thanks for playing. We have some nice parting gifts for you. (Namely a Super Bowl ring. Number six, if you're counting.)

Since then Mendy has been a very good running back, even great at times. He did have the fumblitis issues early on, but he's taken care of that, despite what James Harrison said. (Mendy only fumbled once in 2010.) Yeah, I know he fumbled in the Super Bowl, I'll get to that too.

Upon coming back from his injury, Mendy ran for nearly 2,400 yards for a 4.25 ypc average in 28 starts over the last two years. He also had 20 touchdowns in that timeframe. He even led the Steelers in scoring last year. Bastard! Franco Harris never did that. Oh, wait...yeah, he did. In 1976 he led the Steelers in scoring with 84 points. Well, then, that can't be the reason people hate him. I may need help in figuring this out.

Could it be a tougness issue? After all, I did just state that he was injured virtually the entire '08 season. Nah, he can't be faulted for being out for the season after that hit. If Ray Ray had hit me like that I'd be out for a year too. But really out. Like 'being fed intravenously' out. Like my mama crying, "Oh, Lord Jesus, they done killed my baby!" out. Plus, he hasn't suffered any real injuries since then. So it can't be a matter of toughness. He neither shies away from blocking nor runs out of bounds just to avoid a hit. (You hear that, Franco?) Anyway, I just can't see it being that. What else?

I talked before about the fumbles Mendy had early in his career and especially the one in the Super Bowl. As was said before, he conquered his fumbling problems and hasn't had them since. But, he did fumble in the Super Bowl last year. Yes, it happened. As it would have with any running back. Think back to the play.

Keeping it in simple terms, the Steelers were in 13-Personnel with a designed guard pull to the right. David Johnson, no. 85, lined up as fullback and led the right side run as Doug Legursky, no. 64, pulled out to engage the linebacker, Clay Matthews, and defensive end, Ryan Pickett, respectively. They missed. Badly. They actually split them. Don't ask me how, but they split them. In two-and-a-half steps Mendy had Pickett's helmet and Matthews' right shoulder right on the ball. Breakdown by the offensive line caused the forced fumble that was recovered by Green Bay.

Such breakdowns in the offensive line have been the norm since Mendy has been in Black and Gold. Let's face it, the Steelers don't have the offensive line they once had. This isn't the the 1997 Steelers Line that had Jerome Bettis running behind it. He saw more gaping holes than at an AVN porn convention. He also had a designated full back, but that's for another article. As I was saying, the Line isn't always very good and it's caused him to be indecisive in his runs. He just doesn't hit the holes, as few as they may be, like he should. Which might just be the reason for the hate. The typical Steelers fan would rather see a plodding, big running back. Thus the clamor for Isaac Redman.

Don't get me wrong, I love Redman. I just know he isn't as good as Mendy. Mendy has power, moves and speed. Real speed. Speed that Redman just doesn't possess. Plus, when Mendy sat out the Titans game with a pulled hamstring, it was both Redman and Jonathan Dwyer who filled in for him. Redman, whom everyone wanted, only had 13 rushes for 49 yards. He's nowhere near the dynamic runner that Mendy is. But the typical fan always wants the backup.

Should Redman maybe be used more? Yes, he definitely should be. But Mendy haters shouldn't think for a moment that he could do what Mendy does. It's ludicrous to even suggest that he could. Those who truly know never lost faith in Mendy. Least of all Mendy himself. When asked of all the backlash he's been receiving lately, Mendy said, “If you paid attention to that stuff, it would drive you crazy.” You can read the rest of the article this quote comes from here:

Look, Mendenhall is a dynamic runner. He is an NFL starter. Period. Deal with it. And with the likes of him as the starter, Redman simply won't start. Not that he couldn't elsewhere, he just won't be a starter in Pittsburgh. So go ahead and hate, haters (if any of them kept reading, that is). Unless Mendy pulls a Barry Foster, we can expect to see him for a long time. Now I don't mean to make anyone go and boil someone's bunny over this, it just happens to be the truth.