Lolley: Mendenhall's fumbles give pause

When asked if Rashard Mendenhall's fumbles might give him some pause about playing the rookie in the regular season, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin simply replied, "Yes, wouldn't it you?"

It was a simple answer to a complicated question.

Mendenhall, the Steelers' top draft pick, has shown flashes of brilliance in the preseason. He's also lost three fumbles, all in the team's final two preseason games.

And, of course, Tomlin's most recent memories of Mendenhall are going to be those fumbles.

Any plans Tomlin had of spelling starter Willie Parker for a series here or there are now likely out the window - at least early in the season until Mendenhall proves he's over these fumble problems.

Tomlin said part of the problem may be fatigue. Mendenhall's last two fumbles came after he had just carried the ball a number of times.

But if the Steelers envision Mendenhall as a future feature back – and they do – he's going to have to get over that.

© Arnold Harrison suffered a left knee injury in the third quarter, one that will likely end his season.

Harrison was visibly upset as he walked off the field Thursday night, knowing that the injury may not only end his season, but his football career as well.

That's tough luck for the hard-working linebacker.

But it does open a roster spot for another player and a couple of young linebackers stated their case strongly in this game.

Patrick Bailey made a couple of nice special teams tackles, but didn't show much as a defender. He overran a couple of running plays and could get back into his hole to make the tackle. Bailey's a good kid, but he seems a little overmatched for the pro game.

Donovan Woods looked strong from his inside linebacker position, showing great athleticism and ability. He recorded one sack coming up the middle and nearly had another, leaping over a running back, who tried to cut him, to dive and hit Brett Basanez just as he released the ball. The ball went straight up in the air at the line of scrimmage, but Grant Mason and Bailey were unable to make the interception.

That said, Andre Frazier will probably get Harrison's roster spot.

© Keyaron Fox was also strong in this one, picking off a pass and leading the team with eight tackles.

It's hard to believe a talent-barren team like Kansas City would let a player like Fox leave in free agency.

© Dennis Dixon looks faster running with the ball than any of the players the Steelers are messing around with as return men.

That's not to say the Steelers should put Dixon back as a return man – he'd probably break in two – but he looks as if he's completely healed from the knee injury he suffered last season at Oregon.

The team would be foolish if, at some point, it did not come up with some kind of trick plays to use Dixon on.

Of course that would require them to make him the No. 2 quarterback on game days, so maybe that's not going to happen.

© The Steelers ran their hurry-up offense on their first two series when Ben Roethlisberger and company were in the game and Roethlisberger was not credited with a pass - really.

Roethlisberger threw two passes – he was going to throw on another occasion, but the snap sailed over his head – and Carolina was penalized in the secondary on both occasions.

© Byron Leftwich lined up at wide receiver with Mendenhall in the backfield and went in motion behind the rookie, faking a reverse at the snap.

The Steelers have run the ball out of that set every time, but the next step in the progression is for the running back to hand the ball off to the QB to throw.

Who said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians isn't an inventive guy?

© That fifth receiver spot on the roster is really a fourth receiver spot. Limas Sweed is still making too many mistakes, including dropping a pass at the end of the first half when he was wide open running down the sideline.

Because of that, Willie Reid will win that job. He's got the most receiver experience among the candidates.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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