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Running Back Battle Heats Up

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When Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Brett Keisel rolled into Latrobe in a dump truck announcing the team was “under construction,” he was merely stating the obvious. The Steelers are a team in transition.

No position is more wide open than at running back. When Todd Haley was hired, his first order of business was getting back to “Stiller Football” by establishing a strong consistent running game to complement the passing attack and take some pressure off Ben Roethlisberger. The rushing attack was more or less a miserable failure during year one of the Haley Regime. With Rashard Mendenhall mercifully tap dancing his way to join Bruce Arians down in  Pittsburgh West Arizona, the Black and Gold were left no clear cut number one back.

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Week 17 Recap: Best Laid Plans

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Well, that didn’t go according to plan.

On paper, this had the potential to be one of the craziest final weekends in NFL history. No fewer than a half dozen teams had a realistic shot at a playoff berth. All they had to do was win and hope things fell their way. Naturally, almost every single one of those teams lost.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the few that took care of business. Playing their starters the entire game, they battled the Cleveland Browns to a hard fought 13-9 victory. Unfortunately, the gambit didn’t pay off when the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 24-16. THE RATBIRDS ONLY HAVE ONE GOOD OFFENSIVE PLAYER AND YOU LET HIM RUN FOR 200 YARDS?!?! Thanks to the Jets, Broncos and Raiders also losing, the Bungles were still rewarded for their incompetence by backdooring into the final Wild Card spot.

If the Steelers fail to make noise in this year’s playoffs, this game is going to be the lightning rod for Steeler Nation’s displeasure. By playing his starters the entire game, Mike Tomlin deprived several injured stars, particularly Ben Roethlisberger, of much needed rest. In addition, the team suffered several fresh injuries, most notably to running back Rashard Mendenhall. The preliminary diagnoses is a torn ACL, which would not only end his season but is usually a career-altering injury for a running back. Regardless, Mendy isn’t going to be playing next week.
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