Mendenhall ready to go

No. 1 draft pick Rashard Mendenhall met with the media on Friday as the Pittsburgh Steelers opened training camp.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Art Rooney II: We're here today to welcome Rashard Mendenhall to Pittsburgh and the South Side. I was given a long list of accomplishments Rashard had in college. I'm not going to go through them all. I have to say, it's a resume that we like to see for a Pittsburgh Steelers running back. Rashard was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the year in 2007. He set school records in rushing with 1,681 yards, 17 touchdowns and 1,999 all-purpose yards. Rashard, I don't know why they didn't give you one more yard. You need to talk to that PR department. He had eight 100-yard rushing games. That's the kind of resume that you like to see for a Pittsburgh Steelers running back. We're very pleased to have him join us this weekend. Kevin (Colbert) and I would like to present you with your first Steelers jersey. I know you're going to have a different number than this, but the No. 1 draft pick always gets the No. 1 jersey.

Rashard Mendenhall: I wasn't planning on speaking right away, but from the day I got picked, it was just a great feeling. I feel great about it. My family feels great about it. I've heard nothing but good things from the Rooney family and everybody knows about the Steelers' fans. I'm looking forward to playing in a city like this and for the Rooneys and the city of Pittsburgh.

What's it feel like to make it to the highest level of football competition?

RM: It feels great. My whole life it's been a goal of mine, I've seen it coming. I felt like I was going to be there, I just didn't know how, why or when. But it was a wake-up call to see my name go across the screen and then put on a helmet and step on the field. It's a great feeling and everything's starting to be realized.

Were you relieved to get that first workout over?

RM: Yeah, just relieved. I was kind of nervous. But in the running back room, with Willie (Parker), they're professionals. They're trying to help me as much as they can. The better I do, the better they're going to do, as a team.

What's Willie showing you?

RM: Just how to be a professional. He's been here for a few years. How to work, what to do, how to carry yourself as a professional and as a man.

Did you have that feeling once you walked into the locker room and onto the field that, ‘I can do this?'

RM: Yeah. It definitely felt like that. The nerves and butterflies are going through it. Being out there making cuts and catching the ball, I'm starting to feel more comfortable. This is what I do. To be able to do it feels good.

How big of a step is this going to be for you?

RM: It's a big step. But to be the first draft pick, they obviously have a lot of confidence in me. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I'm supposed to come in here and produce. That's what I'm planning on doing.

Is it a big step in terms of playbook and competition?

RM: It's a big step. When they ask you to take the step, they expect you to do it. I expect myself to be able to do it. It's a step that I don't think I can't make.

Do you expect to get a lot of playing time this year?

RM: Definitely, but that's not up to me. It's the first day of practice. As camp goes on, more and more, I'll feel out my role with the team, to playing a lot or playing a little or on special teams. However things happen.

The Steelers feel shocked that you were there for their pick. Were you shocked as wel?

RM: I think so. I wouldn't have thought I'd be the fourth running back taken. Everything happens for a reason. Going through the process, you hear this and that. I never would have thought I'd end up with Pittsburgh. But I feel real good about how everything happened.

(Offensive coordinator) Bruce Arians said he may have some packages with you and Willie in the same backfield in a pony backfield. Have you ever run out of one before?

RM: Yeah, in high school I'd run with two backs with my brother. In college we did some two-back stuff. In a game like this, you need weapons. It makes sense to use us both at the same time. I think that'd be cool to be out there at the same time.

How would you feel about blocking for him?

RM: That's no problem. Whatever they ask me to do, I'll be willing to do. The better he does, the better I do. Anything I can do, we all benefit from.

How are your skills similar to his and how are they different?

RM: I feel like we both have good feet, good vision and good instincts. I'm a little bigger. They call him Fast Willie, so he's a burner. I don't think we have a lot of the same things, but we bring different things to the table. As things pan out, more and more I'll get a feel for the NFL and my role. We'll get a feel for each other.

Have you seen Willie run much?

RM: A little bit, not so much. I've seen highlights on ESPN and the Super Bowl and everything. I know what kind of player he is.

Blocking and pass receiving are two of the things you need to work on. Are you cognizant of that?

RM: I feel like any running back coming from college, the thing you do the least is probably the passing game. The NFL today is real big on the passing game in nickel situations, whether it be running routes or picking up the blitz. As a running back, it's something I really need to work on. It's not what you're usually used to doing.

have you and your brother Walter talked about recently in terms of you making it to the NFL. I don't know if you passed him up in college with him red-shirting one year. What kind of conversations have you guys had about that?

RM: My whole life we've been real close. He's always been with me and supported me. To tell you the truth, I feel next year, he could be doing the same thing I did. He still has one year and the things that have happened, he hasn't gotten the same kind of opportunity, but I feel like with the opportunity, he could do the same things as me. I talk to him about how I feel and he feels. We've always been close. He's as happy for me as I am for myself.

I read a story that his scholarship was dropped by Illinois after you left?

RM: Yeah, they didn't want him to return. He's a fifth-year senior, he's graduating from Illinois. But he's going to be at Illinois State for one year, getting his Masters. He's going to play his final year there. It's the same thing as me. I only had one year of playing. He can do the same thing as me.

Did that upset you?

RM: Yeah, it upset me, but to tell you the truth, the way things were there, it didn't surpise me too much. They were just never in our favor there


Steel City Insider Top Stories