Rashard returns with a bang

Ever since joining the Steelers as a first-round draft pick in 2008 Rashard Mendenhall has chosen to focus not on the good or the bad of each individual performance or any outside reaction to either, but instead on what he can learn through the study of both in order to perform a little bit better the next time.

His goal always is to maintain perspective and focus and just play the game.

That explains Mendenhall's relatively matter-of-fact reaction to his 146 rushing yards in the Steelers' 17-13 outlasting of Jacksonville on Sunday at Heinz Field.

"I prepare every week and come out and play the best I can," Mendenhall said. "Every week, every day is the same for me. I try to improve as much as I can and put my best foot forward."

That had been the case in advance of Jacksonville, even with Mendenhall having missed the previous game, against Tennessee, due to a tender hamstring, and even though Mendenhall had amassed just 173 rushing yards through the first four games of this season.

Fill-ins Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer had helped the Steelers rush for a season-high 174 yards against the Titans. But the coaching staff quickly re-installed Mendenhall as the No. 1 running back once he showed himself to be healthy in practice. And they did so, Mendenhall said, without a word of advice or instruction as to how he might alter his running style.

"No, no, not at all," Mendenhall said. "It was the same thing, business as usual for us."

Mendenhall's just another day at the office included some climbing of the team's all-time charts.

His rushing touchdown gave him 11 in his last 11 games (postseason included) and was the 23rd of his career, which tied Rocky Bleier for ninth on the Steelers' all-time list. His 146 rushing yards were the fourth-most he's accumulated in a game with the Steelers. And by accounting for 106 rushing yards on his first 10 carries, Mendenhall managed to pass Tom Tracy (2,717) for 13th place in franchise history. Mendenhall's career total stands at 2,758 rushing yards, 185 shy of passing Frenchy Fuqua for the No. 12 spot.

Mendenhall's 6.3 yards per carry on his 23 attempts was the highest single-game average for a Steelers runner with at least 20 attempts since Mendenhall himself averaged 7.0 yards on 22 carries while piling up 155 yards on Nov. 9, 2009 against Denver.

"That's the Mendenhall I've always known," said Max Starks, who played with Mendenhall for the first time since rejoining the Steelers on Oct. 5. "I wasn't here for, I guess, the Mendenhall everyone else was talking about. That's the Rashard I know, and it was great to have him back."

That was especially evident in the early stages of the Jacksonville game.

Mendenhall was handed the ball six times on what became a 10-snap opening possession for the Steelers. He responded with 26 yards, including an 8-yard bounce outside that beat the defense to the pylon and gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter Mendenhall exploded on a 68-yard burst to the Jacksonville 2-yard line, the longest run of his career.

"He did a nice job," Coach Mike Tomlin said. "Obviously, he was healthy. He ran the ball well. We blocked well. We put the ball where it was supposed to go.

"We finished plays."

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