Pittsburgh cuts ties with Davenport

When it came across the wire that the Pittsburgh Steelers had released Najeh Davenport, I told NFL.com Associate Editor Jason Feller, “Don’t use the headline, ‘Steelers dump Davenport!'” (If you didn’t already know, Davenport is infamous for his, well, use of a closet for something other than hanging clothes).

Willie Parker, RB
Pittsburgh Steelers

2007 statistics
Att: 321
Yards: 1,316
TDs: 2

All jokes aside, the move could have serious fantasy implications.

With Davenport out of the mix, rookie Rashard Mendenhall has no real competition for the second spot on the Steelers depth chart. And if he can outshine veteran Mewelde Moore in training camp, there’s even a chance he could be used as the third-down back.

Mendenhall, who caught a career-best 34 passes in his final collegiate season at Illinois, should secure the role if he can pass protect well in preseason action. He might also be in the lead in the competition for those ever-important goal-line carries, which starter Willie Parker lost to Davenport last season.

Parker is a lock to remain atop the depth chart, but there’s been talk of a split backfield with Mendenhall in what’s known as a pony formation. Old school Steeler fans will remember that from the days when Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier shared the workload under former head coach Chuck Noll.

Fast Willie is still the first Steelers back to target in seasonal drafts, but with Davenport now out of the mix, it looks like Mendenhall’s role (and draft value) is destined to increase.

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