From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Rashard Mendenhall's surgically repaired right knee feels so good, the Steelers running back isn't even wearing so much as an ace bandage over it when he practices."I put a sleeve on for a day and didn't like it," Mendenhall said. "I feel better without anything on it."The 25-year-old hardly looked like he needed one on Wednesday. Asked by coach Mike Tomlin to knock Mendenhall around a little bit, Pittsburgh's defense obliged by getting a couple of shots in during their one padded workout of the week.How it'd feel?"It was cool," Mendenhall said. "I was all good."And -- the Steelers hope -- their running game will be too.Though it's still uncertain whether Mendenhall will be ready to play on Sunday when the Steelers (1-1) travel to Oakland (0-2), there's little doubt he's inching closer to a return barely nine months removed from surgery to repair the ACL he tore in last year's regular season finale against Cleveland."He looked fast," offensive guard Willie Colon said. "Everything I saw was a good sign."Pittsburgh could certainly use a healthy Mendenhall to help take some of the pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.The Steelers rank 30th in the NFL in rushing with just 141 yards through the season's first two weeks and are averaging an anemic 2.6 yards per carry. Nearly 20 percent of their 54 running plays have gone for negative yardage, though Roethlisberger and one of the league's top receiving corps has helped Pittsburgh control the ball for more than 35 minutes a game behind some third-down heroics.Roethlisberger, however, knows his team won't continue to convert 56 percent (19 of 34) of its third downs if something doesn't start happening on the ground."We don't want to do that all year," Roethlisberger said. "I can tell you that much."Mendehall's presence means they might not have to.He narrowly missed his third straight 1,000-yard season last fall due in part to a slightly decreased workload and an awkward step against Cleveland on New Year's Day when he tried to plant while trying to cut back near the sideline only to have his knee buckle.Mendenhall didn't even travel to Denver for the playoff game, where replacement Isaac Redman rushed for a respectable 121 yards in a 29-23 overtime loss to the Broncos. Though he underwent surgery shortly after getting hurt, Mendenhall has been careful not to put a definite timetable on his rehab. Still, he's grown increasingly more active in practice over the last two weeks.Asked if he believes he can play on Sunday against the Raiders, Mendenhall shrugged his shoulders and said "possibly," while remaining vague about what exactly it will take for him to get cleared."When there's a green light," Mendenhall said, "that's what I'm preparing for."Having Mendenhall's familiar No. 34 in the backfield would certainly be a welcome sight for the Steelers. Redman has done little through two games. A quarter of his 23 carries have ended with Redman getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Jonathan Dwyer has been more consistent -- rushing for 71 yards on 21 carries -- but is dealing with a turf toe that relegated him to watching practice in sweats on Wednesday.New Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley promised to develop a physical presence in the running game that he used so successfully during his two-plus year tenure as coach in Kansas City. It hasn't quite happened yet and Tomlin acknowledged it's an area that needs some work."We have got a desire to have balance, to be able to attack people in ways that we desire," Tomlin said. "Over time we better be continually moving toward that. Obviously there's been somewhat of an imbalance to this point, but that's just eight quarters of football."At times, the Steelers appear to be experimenting with schemes. They pitched wide to the lumbering Redman on the second play of the game last Sunday against the New York Jets only to see him get slammed for a seven-yard loss. On third-and-9 on the same possession, they converted by sending wide receiver Antonio Brown on an end around.Mendenhall described the mixed results on the ground the result of growing pains. Pittsburgh ran the ball on 17 of their 27 first-down plays against New York in an attempt to set a tone, though center Maurkice Pouncey doesn't think predictability is a problem."Whatever coach calls we've got to go out and execute," he said. "It doesn't matter if he calls a triple reverse, we've got to go out and block it."Besides, the season is still young and Mendenhall believes the offense is still searching for its identity."I think we're still getting in the groove of things with Haley," he said. "We're still shaping it."NOTES:In addition to Dwyer, linebacker James Harrison (knee), safety Troy Polamalu (calf), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (groin), tight end Heath Miller (abdomen) and wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and Mike Wallace (groin) did not practice ... Tackle Mike Adams (back) and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee) were limited.
For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.
It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.
The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.
Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.
Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.
You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.
San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.
But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.
They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.
Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.
He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?
The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.
Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.
Roughly 20 hours after winning in Philadelphia, the Warriors on Sunday take their act to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where they’ll be without Kevin Durant as they try to sweep a back-to-back set for the first time this season.
Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 2pm, with tipoff scheduled for 3:05pm.
It’s the third back-to-back set of the season for the Warriors (12-4), who have split the first two. This one follows a stirring comeback victory over the 76ers on Saturday and it comes against a Nets team sure to test their endurance.
That test is automatically tougher with Durant, who scored scored 27 points against Philly but will be sidelined Sunday with an ankle sprain.
Brooklyn (6-9) is playing without two guards who figured prominently in their plans, as both Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell are out with injuries.
Warriors by 11
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Stephen Curry vs. Spencer Dinwiddie. Curry broke out his mini-slump in the third quarter Saturday in Philly, scoring 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-4 from deep. He’ll see plenty of Dinwiddie, whose wingspan approaches 6-9. Starting in place of the injured D’Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie has become a solid catalyst for Brooklyn’s fast-paced offense. His 5.57-1 assist-to-turnover ratio leads all NBA point guards. If he plays exceptionally well, the Nets may have a legitimate chance.
Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L ankle sprain) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors.
Nets: G Jeremy Lin (ruptured patellar tendon) and G D’Angelo Russell (L knee surgery) are listed as out.
Kane Fitzgerald (crew chief), Ben Taylor and Scott Wall.
Warriors: 8-2, Nets: 3-7.
The Warriors swept two games against Brooklyn in each of the last two seasons and have won 14 of the last 19 overall.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
THE GAS TANK: After expending a lot of energy in wiping out a 24-point second-half deficit against the 76ers, the Warriors now confront the NBA’s most hyperactive team. Brooklyn leads the league in pace for the second consecutive season under coach Kenny Atkinson. The Nets are rested and they want to run. With the Warriors shorthanded and coming off a game on the previous night, Brooklyn will push at every opportunity.
TRUST THE D: The Nets rank second in field-goal attempts but 25th in field-goal percentage and 26th in 3-point percentage. They rely on volume to stay in games, and sometimes it’s enough. The Warriors, with the exception of the first half on Saturday, have tightened their defense and now rank fifth in defensive rating. They may have to go deep into the bench, but they’re defense should hold up.
THE GLASS WAR: On sheer rebounding numbers the Warriors and Nets are about equal, thanks largely to Brooklyn ranking second behind Phoenix in both field-goal attempts and missed shots. Where the Warriors separate is in rebounding percentage, where they rank sixth and Brooklyn is 25th. If the Warriors can stay even on the glass against a team that also is comfortable playing “small,” it likely will be enough to put them over the top.