By Danny Cox
Running back Rashard Mendenhall was suspended for one game on Tuesday by the Pittsburgh Steelers. His suspension comes on the grounds of exhibiting conduct detrimental to the team. While his suspension is for only one of the final three regular season games, Mendenhall’s time in Steelers colors may soon be coming to an end.
Mendenhall was completely absent from Heinz Field on Sunday for the Steelers’ embarrassing 34-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
While it may seem drastic, let it be known that it isn’t like Mendenhall was prepared for the game and just did a no-show. His absence came after being told by the team and coaches that he would not be dressing out to face the Chargers.
The Steelers running back has actually been inactive for the past two games since fumbling twice in four carries against Cleveland a few weeks ago. To replace him during his suspension, Baron Batch was signed from the practice squad.
You see, Mendenhall has played quite sparingly this season anyway for Pittsburgh.
In week 17 of the 2011 NFL season, Mendenhall tore the ACL in his right knee and it caused him to be out of action for a long time. He didn’t even make his 2012 season debut until the Oct. 4.
Sadly, his return to the field was short-lived, as he tore his Achilles a mere four days later and was put back on the shelf. It just didn’t seem to be his year, and therefore his injuries and time out opened the door for numerous other running backs.
Isaac Redmond, Jonathan Dwyer, and rookie Chris Rainey have not only seen their playing time increased during Mendenhall’s time out, but also their production. It not has become quite a crowded backfield in Pittsburgh and someone is going to have to be the odd man – or men – out.
Here is where it may get troublesome for Mendenhall if he was wishing to remain in Pittsburgh.
After the 2012 season, Rashard Mendenhall is an unrestricted free agent. That simply means he will be free to go out and sign with any team he wish – Pittsburgh included – if the right offer is there for him. He can leave the Steelers and they won’t be able to say a word about it either considering his status is that of “unrestricted.”
With the time missed due to injuries and now the one-game suspension, it almost seems like a certainty that Mendenhall will begin looking at other teams once the season is over. His production during this season is down greatly as he has only 113 yards on a mere 34 carries.
That doesn’t mean he won’t provide a great bit of production and talent to any team that is willing to sign him. The main thing now is to get his injuries under control, heal up, and show that none of them have significantly decreased his playing ability. If he can do that, then Rashard Mendenhall can expect to get a very decent contract from either the Steelers or anyone else in the NFL for the 2013 season.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Steelers news, see CBS Sports Pittsburgh.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.