Scouts Inc. on Rashard Mendenhall

After an injury-plagued rookie year, Pittsburgh Steelers tailback Rashard Mendenhall burst on the scene last season with 1,108 rushing yards in 12 starts.

This year, Mendenhall, a former first-round pick, has high expectations as the projected starter for the first time in his career.

So this week we caught up with Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson to get more perspective on what to expect from Pittsburgh's No. 1 tailback in 2010.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin recently spoke highly of Mendenhall this offseason. Matt, what's your take on Mendenhall entering his third season?

Williamson: [What Tomlin said] doesn't surprise me at all. It sounds like they're going to feature Mendenhall more. Whether it's Willie Parker or another draft pick, they're definitely going to bring in another back, maybe as soon as the third round just as insurance. But it's also pretty clear it's Mendenhall's gig now. He's going to have his first offseason as "The Man" at running back and realizes he's going to get a bulk of the carries and will prepare himself accordingly. I think you have to remember he came out of Illinois as a junior and [was] a one-year starter. So he doesn't have a lot of experience being "The Man." I think now is the time it all kicks in, and he grabs it and runs with it.

What are some holes you currently see in Mendenhall's game?

Williamson: There are some inconsistencies in his game. I think he runs a little bit high. He's not particularly elusive on a left-to-right basis -- I don't see him really breaking ankles out there. Mendenhall also worries me a little bit from a ball-security standpoint. But he's playing fast. And when he gets going, he gets [to top speed] quickly. If there's a crack, he can really be a dangerous guy. I can see him having a really good year.

What about short-yardage situations? The Steelers struggled a lot in that area last year.

Williamson: Yes, they have struggled, and I mentioned that Mendenhall does run a little bit high. He's fast and he's pretty strong. But he's certainly not a Jerome Bettis. Mendenhall doesn't blow up huge linebackers or defensive linemen and drags them for that extra yardage. So there is some worry there. A guy like [Stanford running back] Toby Gerhart could very well be on the Steelers' radar. He's a big, hammer running back. Their backs are interesting right now. It wouldn't shock me if they went for one of the biggest backs in this draft or if they went for a dynamic, jack-of-all-trades, third-down type of player. But they will add somebody.