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Rashard Mendenhall's Already Better Than You May Think

Nov 12, 2009 – 8:50 PM
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JJ Cooper

JJ Cooper %BloggerTitle%

Rashard MendenhallJust a month and a half ago, Rashard Mendenhall looked to be a big bust. He missed almost his entire rookie season with a broken collarbone, then was benched for the Bengals game in September after Mike Tomlin said he lacked focus.

But in the past month and a half, Mendenhall has shown he is clearly the Steelers running back of the present and the future, but even Steelers fans may not realize just how good he's been.

In his first five starts, Mendenhall has two of the 20 best rushing games in modern Steelers history (going back to 1960). His 165 yards against the Chargers in his first career start was the 11th best game of the past 50 years -- better than any game Jerome Bettis had as a Steeler. Last week's 155 yards against the Broncos was the 18th best game of the modern era.

Mendenhall's big play ability has proven to be the best surprise. He's tied for third in the league runs of 20 yards or longer despite having only 100 carries. His 5.7 yards per carry average is second best in the league (behind Chris Johnson) and he's had a run of 10+ yards in every one of his five starts.

In case you're wondering, here's the top 20 Steelers rushing games since 1960 (thanks to Pro Football Reference's Play Index). Willie Parker has two of the top three, but this is also a good reminder that Barry Foster at his best was very, very good.

Rk Player Date Opp Att Yds Y/A TD
1 Willie Parker 2006-12-07 CLE 32 223 6.97 1
2 John Fuqua 1970-12-20 PHI 20 218 10.9 2
3 Willie Parker 2006-11-12 NOR 22 213 9.68 2
4 John Henry Johnson* 1964-10-10 CLE 30 200 6.67 3
5 Barry Foster 1992-09-13 NYJ 33 190 5.76 2
6 John Henry Johnson* 1960-12-11 PHI 19 182 9.58 1
7 Barry Foster 1994-09-18 IND 31 179 5.77 1
8 Franco Harris* 1977-11-20 DAL 29 179 6.17 2
9 Barry Foster 1992-11-22 IND 28 168 6 2
10 Dick Hoak 1968-10-20 NOR 16 166 10.38 1
11 Rashard Mendenhall 2009-10-04 SDG 29 165 5.69 2
12 Jerome Bettis 1997-10-12 IND 30 164 5.47 1
13 Jerome Bettis 2001-11-11 CLE 29 163 5.62 0
14 Rocky Bleier 1975-10-26 GNB 35 163 4.66 0
15 Willie Parker 2005-09-11 TEN 22 161 7.32 1
16 Franco Harris* 1975-11-02 CIN 27 157 5.81 0
17 Franco Harris* 1974-11-17 CLE 23 156 6.78 0
18 Rashard Mendenhall 2009-11-09 DEN 22 155 7.05 0
19 Jerome Bettis 2001-10-07 CIN 23 153 6.65 0
20 Franco Harris* 1979-10-07 CLE 19 153 8.05 2
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