Steelers defend late-game strategy
Running back Rashard Mendenhall said he had no qualms with the Steelers keeping the ball on the ground late in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens.
In fact, Mendenhall welcomed the challenge of trying to run out the clock with the ball in his hands.
“We knew we needed one first down, and we were going to take three runs to get there,” said Mendenhall, who rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-14 loss to Baltimore at Heinz Field.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, they failed to get that coveted first down.
On first down at the Steelers’ three-yard line with 2:40 remaining, Mendenhall ran right for two yards. Following a false start penalty against left guard Chris Kemoeatu, Mendenhall ran up the middle for 3 yards on second-and-10.
Following yet another false start penalty — this time against backup tight end Matt Spaeth — Mendenhall’s number was called again. On third and 10 — normally a passing down, and with the Steelers leading 14-10 — Mendenhall ran left for no gain.
“We had the mindset to take three runs to get that first down,” Mendenhall said. “We felt like we would be able to get 10 yards on three runs.”
Said coach Mike Tomlin: “We wanted to run time off the clock.”
Mendenhall’s belief the running game could move the chains late resulted from his success during an earlier fourth-quarter drive. Mendenhall carried seven times during a 13-play, 93-yard march that ended with his 7-yard touchdown burst around right end for a 14-10 lead.
“We found some success, and we kept dialing it up,” Mendenhall said. “The running game is hard work. You dial plays and try to get things (going). We moved the ball pretty well. Not well enough.”
Mendenhall said it became even more difficult to run the ball with the offense being penalized deep in its own territory.
“Turnovers and penalties always kill you,” Mendenhall said.
Entering the Steelers’ bye week, Mendenhall leads the team in rushing yards (411), touchdowns (four) and carries (89). He has two 100-yard rushing games, averages 4.6 yards a carry and is on pace to gain over 1,600 yards this season.
Mendenhall is even more excited about the offense’s potential with the quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s return from a four-game suspension.
Said Mendenhall: “Ben’s a dynamic player.”
Steelers vs. Ravens 10/3/10
The Baltimore Ravens defeat the Steelers, 17-14, Sunday October 3, 2010 at Heinz Field.