Somewhat lost in the injury news coming out of the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) 16-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday was the impact made by two former first round selections, running back Rashard Mendenhall and linebacker Lawrence Timmons. For some, both Mendenhall and Timmons have been viewed as underachievers throughout their careers in Pittsburgh, and both have been lighting rods for fans.
However, one quick glance at his enigmatic career shows some strong numbers, especially when one considers the uneven offensive line play and an offensive coordinator that refused to commit to the run. Between the 2009 and 2010 seasons, he rushed for 2,381 yards and 20 touchdowns, and added some flash as an outlet receiver.
After yesterday performance, it is clear that Mendenhall has a skill set that mirrors what offensive coordinator Todd Haley looks for in an all-purpose back, with the size, speed and hands to develop into a solid weapon for the offense and should play a larger role as he continues to ease into the backfield.
Many fans have similar feelings about Timmons, especially after he signed the $50 million contract extension prior to the 2011 campaign. Sure, Timmons has been up-and-down at times, but he has also had to juggle a tremendous amount of change on the inside. This was especially true in 2011, when injuries to James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior decimated the linebacker corps. Athletically gifted and versatile, Timmons was often forced to play out of position and never was able to get comfortable or find a match-up that fit his skill set.
That all changed yesterday, where like Mendenhall, he took over on his side of the ball and led the charge on defense. More importantly, he proved he could shadow a top tier running back and limit their production, something that may have to happen again this week against Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.
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