It cannot be stressed enough. Every training camp, the Steelers go for the early goal-line drill, hoping that someone will stand out as a versatile short-yardage back with substantial power. Since The Bus left, the drill seems to come up empty year in and year out.
This year, disappointment is leveled at rookie Rashard Mendenhall. Given three chances from the 1-yard line, Bizarro Beetlejuice failed each time. This might be unfair criticism heaped onto a rook, but much is expected when you score 17 touchdowns as a short yardage/power back in college.
“But Nick, our running game is fine. We have Beetlejuice, Fast Bill and a backup plan in Mewelde Moore that other teams would love to be afforded. And Willie was leading the league in rushing up to his injury in week 16 last season!”
I’ve tried to use this excuse in my mind, and it isn’t working anymore. Willie scored two touchdowns all of last year, both on the ground. That’s a massive drop in production, going between yards gained and touchdowns accumulated. You can run a 99 yard play every time you snap the ball, but if you can’t punch in the ball while letting the other team score, well…it’s hard to justify the lack of production in the points category.
Now, I’m not necessarily worried about the RB corps entirely. If Willie can shake off this, he should re-take his spot on the list of top RBs in the league, and Mendenhall could be a perfect compliment.
Stellar defense, Pittsburgh, but someone needs to break the plane.