Fans throughout Steelers Nation questioned the team’s commitment to winning in the wake of the shocking defeat to the Chargers.
Mike Tomlin has asked similar questions, but unlike the rest of the fan base, he’s acted upon it.
Late on Tuesday word spread that the Steelers have suspended 2008 first round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall for “Conduct detrimental to the team.” Specifically, Mendenhall did not show up at Heinz Field after he’d been told earlier in the week that he would not dress for the Chargers game.
Two fumbles and a poor performance vs. the Cleveland Browns led to Mendenhall’s demotion to third string. Mendenhall said all of the right things and was visible on the sidelines of the Steelers victory over Baltimore.
But now Mendenhall’s actions have spoken far louder than any words he might have uttered. Rashard Mendenhall had an obligation to be with his teammates for the Chargers game. First, he needed to show he is a “hand in the pile” type player, second he needed to offer support and advice to his fellow rushers.
But it goes beyond that. Even though Mendenhall had been told he would not dress for the game, there is a chance the Steelers might have needed him. Guys can and do get hurt in warm ups. That’s how Bubby Brister earned his first start back in 1986. Jerome Bettis showed up for the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff game vs. Baltimore expecting to play, but the pain killing shot made his entire leg numb.
These things happen. Who knows? Had something like that happened, Mendenhall could dressed, gotten into the game, and won his starting job back. But he wasn’t there for his team.
The chances of Mendenhall is a free agent resigning with the Steelers were slim to begin with. Now its fairly safe to say that he will not be a Pittsburgh Steeler in 2013.
Mike Tomlin made a statement in benching Mendenhall two weeks ago. Perhaps it might have been a little harsh, considering that neither Jonathan Dwyer nor Issac Redman had done much better in the debacle vs. Cleveland.
- But it was the right move then.
Suspending Mendenhall now is even more right. This type of nonchalance contributed mightily to the loss vs. San Diego, and sending someone home without pay sends a strong signal that it will not be tolerated.
Willie Colon Out, DeCastro to Start
One first round pick begins exiting stage left, another steps into the spotlight. As Ivan Cole of Behind the Steel Curtain (full disclosure, I also write at BTSC) pointed out at the time, Willie Colon’s pancaking of Vontaze Burfick during the Bengals game marked a turning point for the Steelers offensive line and its running game. From that moment the Steelers offensive line began to consistently win battles up front.
Unfortunately, Colon got injured in the loss to the Ravens, and the line has not been the same since, particularly the run blocking.
Colon started the San Diego game, but could not finish. Mike Tomlin confirmed that he’ll have surgery this week. How he responds will determine whether or not he heads to IR for the third straight year.
In Colon’s absence, the Steelers solution has been to start Doug Legursky at center and move Maurkice Pouncey to guard. That worked well in the victory over the Ravens. Not so much vs. the Chargers. But as Colon will be out for a while, to say the least, Mike Tomlin has discarded the band aid approach, and instead is starting rookie first round draft pick David DeCastro.
DeCastro was of course injured in preseason, and made his return to the active roster a few weeks ago. But he’s only played special teams thus far.
Ramon Foster will shift over to left guard and DeCastro will start at right guard.
Its yet another incarnation of the Steelers offensive line in what has been an almost three year, non-stop musical chairs expirement.
The Steelers will need more from their offensive line if they’re to prevail vs. Dallas.
Hopefully David DeCastro can bring it for them.
Allen and Lewis Injured Too….
It never rains but it pours. As in monsoon.
Both Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen suffered hip flexors vs. the Cowboys. Lewis is expected to play but Allen is doubtful. That means that Curtis Brown, who did not play well last week, might start and that Josh Victoria and David Van Dyke will also likely see time in the secondary.