When Steelers coach Mike Tomlin demoted running back Rashard Mendenhall to 3rd-string following a fumble in a loss to Cleveland last month, Tomlin stressed Mendenhall would have an opportunity to redeem himself.
Not this week.
The Steelers suspended the mercurial Mendenhall for their game Sunday at Dallas for conduct negative to the team. Pittsburgh promoted running back Baron Batch from the practice squad to take Mendenhall’s place.
The suspension is the latest in a series of setbacks for the 25-year-old Mendenhall. He appeared as Pittsburgh’s starter in 2009 and topped 1,000 yards in 2009 and 2010. He virtually reached the milestone again last winter but tore the ACL in his right knee in the regular- season curtain call against Cleveland. Baseball betting lines
Mendenhall returned Oct. 4 and had 101 total yards and a touchdown in a triumph over the Eagles. He strained his right Achilles a few days later against Tennessee Titans and never regained a firm grip on the starting job.
Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman shined in Mendenhall’s absence – with either rushing for more than 100 yards in 3 games in a row – and Mendenhall was collapsed to 3rd in the depth chart after he coughed up the ball in the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) made Mendenhall inactive in a success over Baltimore and last week’s 34-24 loss at home to San Diego. Though the running game struggled – Dwyer led the Steelers with 32 yards – Tomlin stated that he had no intentions to make a change as Steelers heads into the last 3 weeks of the season.
With 113 yards on 34 carries, Mendenhall ranks 3rd on the team behind Jonathan Dwyer (510 yards) and Isaac Redman (350 yards), and he still has to find the end zone. These numbers are miles away from history 3 seasons, in which he averaged 1,103 yards and virtually 10 touchdowns per season.
Except for not running the ball effectively, Mendenhall has been a non-factor in the passing game. He has 7 receptions for 61 yards and a score.
It was expected that Mendenhall could have been a huge factor in the passing game after offensive coordinator Todd Haley put an emphasis on having QB Ben Roethlisberger dump the ball off to the running backs during training camp.
In comparison, Redman leads all backs with 19 receptions with Dwyer just behind him with 17 and Chris Rainey at 14. Even fullback Will Johnson ranks ahead of Mendenhall with 11 receptions.
But numbers apart, Mendenhall never proved that he could carry the load.
Even though the offensive line wasn’t strength, it played well enough for Dwyer and Redman to provide some good numbers. Dwyer especially stood out with two 100-yard performances in October, as he made use of a chance to get significant carries.
Dwyer doesn’t have the same speed or power that Mendenhall has, but he is a forward runner who hit the holes fast and had the facility to make his very own yards when the offensive line didn’t unlock lanes for him to run.