Mendenhall’s Return Sparks Steelers To Win Over Eagles
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By Matt Pawlikowski
The third time was defiantly the charm, at least when it came to last minute comebacks. Twice this season, the Steelers found themselves on the backside of a last minute comeback, first to the Broncos and then the Raiders.
Behind all three facets of the game, offense, defense and special teams, Pittsburgh not only downed the Eagles 16-14, but upped its record to 2-2 on the season.
“It’s awesome to get out of here with a win against a very good team,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “More than anything the guys were resilient. They stayed together, they delivered the necessary plays down the stretch, which is important and the difference between winning and losing.”
Philly was 46-27-3 all time entering the series, and while the Steelers owned time of possession, it wasn’t until time expired that the game was in hand. Shaun Suisham delivered a 34-yard field goal in less than ideal conditions, his third of the game to seal the victory.
“It certainly is a thrill,” Suisham said. “I was hoping for a chance to win and was glad I made it. I have gotten used to the conditions over the year, I went to Bowling Green so I’m used to it. It was nice to get a win.”
Philadelphia entered the contest averaging 417.8 yards per game, but the defense, which has been under scrutiny all season, played its most complete game of the year–even without the services of Troy Polamalu for most of the game, who re-aggravated his calf muscle early in the game, and already has been ruled out of Thursday night’s contest.
On the day, the unit forced three fumbles, including a key recovery by Larry Foote in the Steelers’ own endzone after Ryan Clark forced Michael Vick to fumble at the one-yard line. Foote also recovered another Vick fumble after Lawrence Timmons knocked it out of Vicks hand.
The defense also held Philadelphia’s high tess unit to just 46 yards on the day.
“The quarterbacks are not used to running in traffic, so we just have to fly to the ball and the ball will come out,” Foote said. “ It was a total team effort today.”
It wasn’t his best day–he only had a 72 rating–but Roethlisberger did what he did best: take the team down the field to yet another game winning drive. He also spread the ball out well and did not have an interception.
Running backs ( A)
Why not? After a dismal start, the return of Rashard Mendenhall sparked the unit. On the day Mendenhall averaged 5.8 yards per carry and had a game high 81 yards, Isaac Redman also seemed sparked by his return and averaged 3.6 yards per carry.
There were signs of brilliance, like Emmanual Sanders key third down reception on the game winning drive, but there were too many drops. Perhaps the weather played a role, but this is Pittsburgh and summer fades fast.
DEFENSE ( B+)
Not only did the unit pressure Michael Vick all day, holding him speechless except for his press conference after the game, they also forced three fumbles. The secondary held Phillys high tess recievers in check, and LeShon McCoy, the former Pitt standout who had many great days at Heinz Field while there was an afterthough, held to just 53 yards by a line that a few weeks ago was called too old.
SPECIAL TEAMS ( A)
Shaun Suisham went 3 for 3 on field goal tries on a wet turf, including the game winner. Punter Drew Butler averaged 46.3 yards per kick and had a 57 yarder. And then there was Chris Rainey, who averaged 28.5 yards per kick return, including a career long 44 yarder.
During pre-season and camp, the place kicking duties were not etched in stone. Suisham was the incumbent, but rookie Danny Hrapatna was having a great camp. In the end, the Steelers stayed with the veteran and he hasn’t dissapointed yet as it seemd to light a fire under him.
Suisham has now converted all eight of his field goal tries, and is perfect on extra points. He is also booming kicks into the endzone, helping his team with field position.
“It’s nice to come through and help the guys,” Suisham said. “You can’t get that feeling doing to many other things, I don’t know if its a sickness but you hope to do that.”
Mended Mendenhall Rocks
Prior to the Eagles game, the Steelers rush attack was basically nil. A measly average of 2.6 yards per game forced the team to go to what is called a run alternative with short dump off passes. While the short flair passes continued, having Rashard Mendenhall back was a huge boost for the team.
Not only did Mendenhall score a touchdown, the 30th rushing of his career to place him fifth on the all time Steeler list, he recorded a game high 81 yards on 14 carries, a 5.8 yard per carry average. The team on the day averaged 4.4, with Issac Redman finally getting in the groove, averaging 3.2 yards on 13 carries.
Mendenhall said he wasn’t nervous at all about playing his first game since last January, when he was lost with an injury to the Browns.
“I felt comfortable throughout the week,”Mendenhall said. “Day in an out I just kept working at it. I knew when I stepped out there I knew I would be comfortable and just wanted to go out there and be the best I could and I was able to do that.”
“Our savior is back. We’ve been teasing him all week. It was great to see him out there and he did a great job.” –Roethlisberger on the return of Mendenhall
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Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.