Steelers, Rashard Mendenhall, Unlikely to Mend Fences

The Pittsburgh Steelers went into the 2008 NFL Draft with clear needs at offensive and defensive line. Yet they had a few players who they would not pass on, need be dammed, should they fall their way.

Rashard Mendenhall was one of them, and when he fell to them the Steelers picked him in the first round.

  • And Mendenhall has remained an enigma ever since.

Rashard Mendenhall entered the NFL behind Willie Parker on the depth chart, but that looked to change early in the season as Parker fell injured vs. the Eagles. Mendenhall stint as the Steelers starter lasted all of one game, ended by Ray Lewis in Baltimore.

Mendenhall did his rehab in Pittsburgh but disappeared from the team’s facilities, spending his free time in museums.

Failure to “be on the details” caused Mike Tomlin to bench him before the Steelers road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, yet a injury to Parker saw Mendenhall starting vs. San Diego following week where he exploded for 165 yards.

  • Mendenhall grabbed hold of the starting role and only injury forced him to relinquish it.

But that doesn’t mean Mendenhall’s reign as starter has been an unqualified success. Instead, he’s been maddeningly inconsistent.

When Mendenhall runs decisively, he can hang with the top five backs in the league conjure memories of some of the best power rushers in league history. Think the AFC Championship game.

At other times Mendenhall hesitates and shuffles. And at those times there’s nothing to distinguish Mendenhall from the mediocre middle. While Mendenhall has clearly been the Steelers most talented running back during his time in Pittsburgh, he has never been its most consistent performer. (That distinction falls to Isaac Redman.)

And then there’s the question of attitude.

  • Mendenhall’s early benching seemed to set him straight. (His Twitter tirades are unrelated to football and have no bearing in this discussion.)

Later that same year he showed a ton of heart in picking himself up off the ground and running the length of the field to save a pick six.

But Mendenhall’s two fumbles in the Steelers mid-season meltdown vs. Cleveland earned him third string status. And Rashard Mendenhall responded by pulling a no show for the Steelers game vs. San Diego.

Such behavior is inexcusable and Mike Tomlin suspended him for it. Mendenhall for his part didn’t see anything wrong with not showing up for a game….

Could Mendenhall and the Steelers Mend Fences?

Shortly after the suspension, word leaked that Mendenhall was “negotiating with the Steelers.” As the Steelers have not negotiated contracts during the season since mid-1993 such negotiations probably consist of his agent leaving a voicemail with Kevin Colbert and leaking it to the press.

  • Nonetheless, Kevin Colbert has said the Steelers have not ruled out resigning Mendenhall.

What does that mean?

Either Colbert is saying this because it’s his job to say something that like that, or the Steelers could be interested in welcoming him back.

  • No matter how low his price goes, the Steelers should not welcome Rashard Mendenhall back

The extent of the divisions in the Steelers locker room remains a matter of debate. Absent social media, few fans would even know about the conflicts, be they real or perceived.

But the Steelers did struggle with discipline issues in 2012 and Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert will severely undercut their own authority if they bring back someone who abandoned his teammates.

Don’t expect that to happen.

Thanks for visiting. Click here for the rest of Steel Curtain Rising or here to see our Steelers 2013 Free Agent Focus.

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