Illini in the NFL - Week 17

Rashard Mendenhall scored two touchdowns in the Steelers week 17 win over the Browns.
Rashard Mendenhall scored two touchdowns in the Steelers week 17 win over the Browns.

Jan. 3, 2011

Take a look at how former Illini fared in the final week of the NFL season. Eight former Illinois football players have helped lead their teams to the playoffs, including running backs Rashard Mendenhall of the AFC's No. 2 seed Pittsburgh Steelers and Pierre Thomas of the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers - Scored a pair of touchdown on one-yard runs while picking up 36 yards on the ground and catching one pass for 24 yards in the Steelers' 41-9 first-round bye clinching win over the Browns. Mendenhall started all 16 games for the Steelers, who earned the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a 12-4 record, and scored 13 touchdowns while also leading the team in rushing with 1,273 yards, which ranked seventh in the NFL. Watch Mendenhall's first TD | Watch Mendenhall's second TD

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Denver Broncos - Lloyd capped a breakthrough season in his eighth year in the league by finishing with a league-high 1,448 yards receiving. He had five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown in Denver's 33-28 setback to San Diego in Sunday's season finale. He finished the season with 77 catches, 11 of which went for touchdowns while averaging 18.8 yards per reception. In addition, Lloyd's season total of 1,448 was second only in Broncos history to Rod Smith's 1,602 in 2000. Watch Lloyd's final TD of the season

Neil Rackers, K, Houston Texans - Made a pair of field goals (26, 33 yards) and four extra points in the Texans' 34-17 victory over the Jaguars. Rackers compiled the highest single-season field goal percentage in team history, a 90 percent success rate on 27 of 30 accuracy. His career-best 57-yard field goal against the Denver Broncos is tied for the longest field goal in team history. He also has connected on 51 consecutive field goals of 45 yards or less and had the highest touchback percentage in Texans single-season history.

Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints - Missed the final regular season game due to a left ankle injury, which forced him to miss nine straight games earlier in the year. Thomas played in six games, starting three, and scored two touchdowns while also rushing for 269 yards and catching 29 passes for 201 yards for the Saints, who finished the year 11-5 and earned a wild card in the NFC.

Steve Weatherford, P, New York Jets - Averaged 41.3 yards on six punts, including four inside the 20-yard line, in the Jets' 38-7 win over the Bills. Weatherford tied the NFL record for punts inside the 20-yard line with 42 and averaged 42.6 yards per punt for the Jets, who went 11-5 and received a wild card in the AFC.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Played in the first 15 games of the season, including nine starts, before tearing his ACL during week 16. Before going down with the injury, Been caught two touchdown passes and had 25 receptions for 395 yards in his rookie season for the Buccaneers, who just missed the playoffs at 10-6.

Vontae Davis, CB, Miami Dolphins - Notched three solo tackles and a pass defended in the Dolphins' 38-7 loss to the Patriots. Davis played in all 16 games, including starting 15, and totaled 54 tackles along with one forced fumble and an interception for the Dolphins.

Kelvin Hayden, CB, Indianapolis Colts - Started the first 11 games of the season at cornerback before missing the final five due to a neck injury. Despite the missed time, Hayden still managed to rack up 61 tackles, nine passes defended and two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns, for the Colts, who won the AFC South with a record of 10-6. He is expected to be back for the first round of the playoffs.

Danny Clark, LB, New Orleans Saints - Made four solo tackles, including two for a loss, in the Saints' 23-13 loss to the Buccaneers. Clark played in 14 games, starting 10, and made 59 tackles while also forcing one fumble for the 11-5 Saints, who finished the year 11-5 and earned a wild card in the NFC.

Jon Asamoah, OL, Kansas City Chiefs - Saw action on the offensive line in 15 games during his rookie season, including making his first career start in week eight, as the Chiefs won the AFC West with a record of 10-6.

David Diehl, OL, New York Giants - Started 12 games at right tackle, including in the 17-14 win over the Redskins, but the Giants just missed the playoffs at 10-6. Diehl, who had started every game since joining the Giants in 2003 as a fifth-round draft pick, missed four straight games from week 10-13 due to a hamstring injury.

Eugene Wilson, FS, Houston Texans - Led the team with 10 tackles, including six solo stops, in the Texans' 34-17 win over the Jaguars. Wilson played in 14 games, starting 13, while wrapping up the year with 56 tackles and three passes defended.

Alan Ball, CB, Dallas Cowboys - Made two solo tackles in the Cowboys' 14-13 victory over the Eagles. Ball started all 16 games at free safety, tallying 46 tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble for the Cowboys.

Brandon Moore, OL, New York Jets - Started all 16 games at guard for the sixth-consecutive year for the 11-5 Jets, who knocked off the Bills 38-7 in the final week of the season and will be the No. 6 seed in the AFC.

Jeff Cumberland, TE, New York Jets - Played in his first career game in the final week of the season, making one catch for three yards in the Jets' 38-7 win over the Bills.

Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, St. Louis Rams - Played in eight games, starting three at tight end, but was hampered by an ankle injury, which limited his time on the field. "Illini Mike", which he became known by, scored three touchdowns and had 13 receptions for 146 yards before the injury.

Josh Brent, DL, Dallas Cowboys - Saw action in all 16 games during his rookie season and made two solo tackles in the Cowboys' 14-13 win over the Eagles in the final game of the season. Brent finished the year with 16 total tackles.

Greg Lewis, WR, Minnesota Vikings - Played in 13 games, starting at wide receiver in five, and caught 17 passes for 197 yards.

Will Davis, LB, Arizona Cardinals - Played in 10 games, starting three, before a fractured fibula forced him out for the end of the year. Davis made 14 tackles and recorded one sack before the injury.

Brit Miller, LB, St. Louis Rams - Played in nine games on the year before tearing his ACL during week 15. Miller made nine tackles on special teams during the year.

Tony Pashos, OL, Cleveland Browns - Played in six games, starting three, before going on injured reserve and missing the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.