Could Rashard Mendenhall be Done in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall may have carried the ball for the last time for the Black and Yellow.
Mendenhall tore his ACL in a week 17 win over the Cleveland Browns and underwent surgery in mid-January. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said last month: “I never feel good about an ACL until a year. I’m not a doctor, but that’s my mindset. If he gets back before that, to me it’s a bonus.” That does follow the general rule—about a year to fully recover. Going into his fifth season in Pittsburgh, it looks like Mendenhall will be a non-factor in the backfield.
The 210-pound back is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2012 season. Due to a perceived drop-off in production, it seems likely that Mendenhall will not be re-signed at that time. However, while his yards per game (compared to 2010) dropped by 17.7 yards, his carries per game dropped by 5.1, but his yards per carry went up slightly (from 3.9 to 4.1). The extra five carries would have given Mendenhall about 20 more yards per game and put him around 82 yards…somewhere between Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson.
With Mewelde Moore likely gone this season, that leaves Pittsburgh with a lot of inexperience at running back. Isaac Redman would be the starter at present. He ran well in spots last season, putting up 121 yards on just 17 carries in the wild card loss to Denver. After that, the Steelers are looking at Jonathan Dwyer—who, other than a 76-yard rush against Tennessee last season, has looked sluggish and bottom-heavy—John Clay and Barron Batch. Clay has ten career carries for 41 yards and Batch is a 7th round pick who spent his rookie season on IR after tearing an ACL in the pre-season.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette thinks that, while the Steelers are not interested in paying Mike Tolbert to come in and start for them, there may be other free agent running backs (possibly future released backs) who they might be interested in.