is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry this season. (Dean M. Beattie/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Perhaps Rashard Mendenhall deserves a bit of a break, considering he's less than a year removed from a torn ACL. The Steelers still have to be incredibly frustrated with how little they've gotten from their former No. 1 running back this season.
Sunday, Mendenhall was scratched from the Steelers' active roster for their important regular season rematch with Baltimore. Mendenhall put the ball on the turf twice last week, losing one -- part of a disastrous eight-fumble (five lost), eight-turnover day by the Steelers in a loss to Cleveland.
Mendenhall provided a brief spark way back in Week 5, when he returned from that ACL injury to put up 68 yards rushing (on 13 carries) against Philadelphia.
Since then, however, he has all of 45 yards on the ground and missed four more games with a sore Achilles. In the meantime, the Steelers placed a lot more faith in Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman out of the backfield -- that duo split carries Sunday against the Ravens.
But this all goes back to the larger problems haunting the Steelers: Their stars have been unable to stay healthy and have been less effective than normal when they're in the lineup.
That goes for Mendenhall, as well as for a guy like Mike Wallace. The Steelers' top receiver had 47 catches heading into Sunday (second on the team to Heath Miller) as well as a team-leading six TD receptions. Wallace also has had major issues reeling the football in, though, up to and including a drop of a wide-open pass from Charlie Batch in Sunday's game.
Pittsburgh's offense relies heavily on Ben Roethlisberger's ability to ad-lib out of the pocket. But there is enough talent around that the bouts of inconsistency remain confounding, even with Big Ben out of action.
Wallace's on-again, off-again production makes it easy to glance back to last offseason, when Wallace held out in search of a lengthy, lucrative contract extension -- and the Steelers instead offered a one-year tender of less than $3 million. Wallace could become a free agent at the end of this season, and there's a growing belief that the Steelers may just let him walk, content to replace him with Antonio Brown and others.
That's another topic for another day, of course. In the present, the Steelers need Wallace and the rest of their skill players to step up their games, especially if Roethlisberger's injury continues to linger.
Mendenhall's failure to get the job done means more chances for Dwyer and Redman. And Pittsburgh badly needs one of those backs to take charge of the run game.