PITTSBURGH (AP) — Rashard Mendenhall's surgically repaired right knee is just fine. So too it seems is the Pittsburgh Steelers' running game.
Cutting with authority and showcasing the explosiveness that made him a vital part of Pittsburgh's offense, Mendenhall rolled up 101 total yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh's 16-14 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday.
"Our savior is back," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joked. "We've been teasing him all week. It was great to see him out there and he did a great job."
Playing for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee on New Years Day, Mendenhall revived Pittsburgh's beleaguered running game to take some of the pressure off Roethlisberger. The Steelers (2-2) came in 31st in the league in rushing yards per game and dead last in yards per carry.
Mendenhall took care of that, averaging a robust 5.8 yards on 14 carries, not including a 29-yard run wiped out by one of Pittsburgh's nine penalties.
"When I stepped out there I knew that I would be comfortable and just wanted to go out there and play the best that I could, and I was able to do that," Mendenhall said.
He was just as effective out of the backfield, catching two passes for 20 yards, including a 15-yard screen pass during Pittsburgh's final drive that ended with Shaun Suisham's 34-yard field goal as time expired.
"I thought he not only ran well and caught the ball, but he was a source of energy for the unit," said Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin. "That's what great players do. They inspire those around them. I thought he did that for the group."
Philadelphia (3-2) appeared on the verge of its third one-point win on the season when Michael Vick found Brent Celek for a 2-yard score with 6:33 remaining, but the Eagles couldn't slow down the Steelers during a methodical final drive in which Roethlisberger converted a pair of critical third downs.
"I think they just made one more play than we did, and it happens," said Philadelphia safety Kurt Coleman.
It's something the Eagles had done with regularity during September, when they won three games by a total of four points.
The Eagles trailed the whole way but put together a grinding 17-play, 79-yard drive at the start of the final quarter, converting a pair of risky fourth downs, including one deep inside their own territory. LeSean McCoy turned both into first downs, twisting for the necessary yardage on fourth-and-inches at the Philadelphia 30, then bulling for two yards on fourth-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 47.
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