Mendenhall\’s Injury & \’Tweets\’ Could Cost Him A Spot With Steelers In 2012

Rashard Mendenhall

By Christina Rivers

Rashard Mendenhall is facing the end of a 5-year $9.5 million contract for 2012 and a torn ACL.  His 2011 season ended in the final season game against the Cleveland Browns.  General Manager Kevin Colbert admitted that it may take Mendenhall a while to get healthy.

“Potentially Rashard Mendenhall might not be ready for camp,” said Colbert. “In my mind, I never feel good about an ACL until a year. I am not a doctor but that’s just my mindset. If he gets back before then, to me it’s a bonus. Is he a potential candidate for the PUP List? Absolutely.”

Mendenhall, questioned earlier in the season for Twitter messages about Osama bin Laden\’s death and the September 11, 2001, attacks brought all kinds of scrutiny.  It lead Steelers president Art Rooney II to make a public statement, saying, “I have not spoken with Rashard, so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments. The entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon.”  Eventually Mendenhall clarified his feed posts and even deleted the one about 9/11.

While Mendenhall rehabs, the Steelers are attempting to unload players who haven\’t been as  productive as they\’d like.  In 2012, Mendenhall will burden the cap by $3.4275 million.  Although that isn\’t a necessarily excessive amount of cash, it may not be worth the money to see him sit on the PUP list while other running backs step up.  Mendenhall admits that he hasn\’t set a timetable on his return to football.  He said, “I don\’t look at time as much a being 100 percent.  Whenever that happens and I am back to being me, that is what is of utmost importance before anything.”

Craig Gottschalk of the  Nice Pick Cowher website went so far as to write about Mendenhall, “He has an attitude problem, his numbers suffered this past season, his work ethic on the field was put into question…and now he is shelved.”

Truly shelved or not, Mendenhall may be facing a permanent cut.  His attitude was seriously questioned.  His numbers last season were fairly decent;  he started 15 games, had 228 attempted carries for 928 yards (a 4.1 yard-per-carry average), nine touchdowns and was 18/154 receiving.  In comparison, Issac Redman had 1 start in 16 games played, had 100 rushing attempts for 479 yards (a 4.4 yards-per-carry average), three touchdowns and was 18/78 yards receiving.  While Mendenhall\’s production seemed to slip, Redman\’s value began to go up.  Ending the season with an ACL tear didn\’t help and Mendenhall wasn\’t able to assist the Steelers in the post-season.  The Steelers have John Clay and Baron Batch who are eager to make their mark.  While Batch is coming off of his own ACL injury, he\’s ready to suit up.  Mendenhall may not even see the field at all.

The big question comes down to how willing the Steelers organization is to keep Mendenhall with the team while they try to build a solid squad and come in under the salary cap.  Restructuring contracts can only go so far.  The Steelers are facing a March 13, deadline to get that cap under control.  Meanwhile, the combines are coming and they could find a cheaper player there that is ready to put on a uniform and be healthy in training camp.

Losing great players is always a tough situation.  Fans certainly aren\’t comfortable with it.  Some are saying it would be worth losing Mendenhall after the rushing game was practically scrapped in 2011 rather than see Hines Ward completely eliminated from the team.  Two things in favor of Ward; he can block and he can still make great catches.  Mendenhall won\’t be able to do either until he\’s healthy.  That may take a year, and the Steelers seem to be running out of time.

About the Author

Christina L. Rivers
Born in 1972, Christina L. Rivers follows in her maternal Grandmother's shoes as a writer. Christina is currently a journalist for, and writes for several blogs. She has recently been added as a writer for SteelersDepot and 'The Beam' in Pittsburgh. Christina's favorite Steelers players of all-time are Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley. She is active on Twitter @3Rivers_Writer. Christina also enjoys collecting NFL cards, and has over 5,000 individual Steelers cards, some as old as the late 1950s.
  • Joe D

    If they cut Mendenhall, how does his salary count toward CAP due to season ending injury. According to Colbert, it still counts and he will continue to be paid by Steelers.
    In other words, if they cut Mendenhall, it doesn’t help CAP.

  • Eric87

    I like Mendenhall as a rb. He definitely has the burst to take it the distance, but if it came down to mendy or ward I’d prob take ward because Mendy is a free agen next season and there is no guarantee that he would return anyways, though I don’t believe that he has done a whole lot to garner him a huge contract elsewhere.

  • SteelersDepot
  • Paul

    Colbert said yesterday that Mendenhalls cap is the same whether he is cut or not

  • Vancleavedd52

    IF Mendenhall does have this huge attitude issue and is on the PUP list for his injuries I doubt he will see this next season at all. I do like him as a player BUT negative connotations and attitude is not justified no matter what you would like to say. IT is a good thing those statements were deleted off of Twitter as that questions his character and people DO pay attention to that. I would also hate to see Hines go as he still is an asset to the team as stated before he can still block and he can still catch the ball. He may not be as fast as some of the younger players but he still has it in is mind and is good as well as encouragement and helping the team on the team on the sidelines as well. I say let the players NOW that are ready for camp show what they have and can do and see what comes up. There is still a little time to decided what happens or what their intentions are with Mendenhall. I just hope his attitude changes into a more positive one as well.

  • Why can’t Mendenhall say what he wants… We all should be able to have free speech..

  • silverstreakhl

    Where is the evidence that Mendenhall has an attitude and work ethic problem? That’s certainly news to me. As for the Steelers cutting someone because of a tweeted political opinion– that sounds like total nonsense. Some of what Mendenhall wrote was naive, some actually thoughtful, but at least the kid formulated an interesting opinion, unlike most of the blockheads who play professional sports. How about some real sources next time.

  • Paul

    some of the response to his tweet was even more overblown than college students yelling USA USA like it was a football game. I assure you that the relatives of those 3000 people killed on 9/11 weren’t cheering but were experiencing every possible human emotion.

    I have no problem with Mendenhall and the Steelers are a much weaker team without him. Most experts share by opinion.

    I appreciate you comments silverstreakhl

  • Med171

    I will be disappointed if they get rid of Mendenhall. His only weak area is field-vision & instincts. Around the goal line, he buckles it up and goes for it. That’s why he gets so many TDs.
    I’m ambivalent about his twitter posts. I hate seeing people censored. If that’s the reason they cut him, huge demerit for the team. Mr. Rooney deserves credit for defending against the ridiculous ‘not supporting the troops’ accusation.
    But an athlete’s comments shouldn’t carry the same weight as people like an architect or engineer, firefighter or pilot.
    Gottschalk is out of bounds with the attitude problem claim. I don’t want to see media hacks turning Steelers football into a soap opera. We’re not cowboys fans.


    I agree with most of the posters so far that I’ve never seen anything that would indicate Mendenhall has an attitude problem. In fact, he comes off unassuming and soft-spoken in most of his interviews. And his work ethic? I remember both Tomlin and BA complimenting him on how good of shape and prepared he was at the beginning of the season – unlike Redman and Drywer who both came into camp somewhat out of shape.

    Over 2 2/3 seasons as a starter Mendy as put over 3000 plus yards and close to 30 tds. He doesn’t seem like a slacker to me.

    And is Redman the Steeler rb of the future? He could be… but I’ve mentioned this before — he turns 28 this year. I know he doesn’t have a lot of NFL miles on his frame yet, but I wonder if the Steelers organization will want to invest in an older rb for the long term.

  • Boise Steeler

    Next year is when the team is gonna take a hard look at Mendenhall. From what I’ve read, he doesn’t really help hurt the cap with his current contract situation, may start on the PUP list (no impact to headcount), and IR to be determined at some point down the road.

    Per the other comments, yes, the tweet issue by itself does not alienate the front office, but he also didn’t win any favors when he went on IR after his broken collarbone and literally disappeared from the facility for months.


  • Kad964

    Colbert’s comment had nothing to do with Mendenhall as a player or person. ACL injuries normally take a year to heal and a player normally isn’t the same until the 2nd season. No one has ever accused Mendenhall of being a slacker since he was benched against Cincy in his 2nd season. You need to distenguish between bloggers and reporters…

  • Gabe

    I think silverstreakhl that if you know how to use Google or Bing you should be able to read what people said about Mendenhall’s tweets. I think that Mendenhall has a right to his opinion and sharing it, but come on! Get with the program. Real sources? Like you?

  • I actually defended Mendenhall when he made the Tweet messages because I believe that we should all be free to express ourselves. Everyone needs to go back and see this: It was Craig Gottschalk who said Mendenhall had an attitude problem…not me. I was merely pointing out what the pundits are saying. And I have provided links to the sources.

    As to the line of thinking that Mendenhall may not remain with the Steelers — perception is that he didn’t have a good year in 2011 and that his ACL injury is serious enough that the Steelers may have no choice but to cut him.

    News evolves in the NFL every single day. That’s why you can’t always make a judgment based on a single statement. I haven’t ever come right out and said that Mendenhall will absolutely not be with the Steelers. I do, however, stand behind my statement that Mendenhall’s injury prevents him from being competitive in 2012, and that Hines Ward is more valuable as a player if the team has to make a choice between the two men.

    I appreciate everyone sharing their voices and opinions. If you ever have a source you think makes a better statement, I invite you to post the link in your comment. Open up a dialogue with everyone that encourages opinions.

  • I try to include as many sources as I can. If your statement means I should only include those from the front office of the Steelers, then you’re going to miss out on a lot of news unless Steelers Depot simply regurgitates what has already been posted there. Note to self, however, people don’t want the opinions of bloggers but real writers – and sources. Thanks Kad964

  • Thank you for taking the time to point out that it was Gottschalk who said that Mendenhall had the attitude problem.

  • And you clearly stated that what was at issue was whether or not the $1 million benefit would be tacked onto the salary cap. This article was basically reinforcing the idea that it may or may not. I encourage anyone who has read or is reading this article to go to that link. It is a very thorough look at how the cap is affected by both Casey Hampton and Rashard Mendenhall.

    And like Dave, I too am glad that I do not have to make the tough calls regarding which players must go due to salary cap issues. March 13 is not very far away. It’s crunch time for sure.

  • I don’t have any evidence personally that Mendenhall has a bad attitude or work ethic. Apparently Gottschalk thinks he does. I only referenced it because he was pointing out an opinion that is apparently shared with some other sports sources. I am willing to give those to you if you’d like.

    As for the Tweets, if you scroll down…you’ll see that I addressed that question as well. I even had the opportunity to ask Mendenhall about the Tweet regarding Osama bin Laden, to which I received an answer that he felt it was wrong to celebrate the death of any person. I respect that answer because I had my own misgivings. Although I think that many Americans were simply expressing their relief that the man they held responsible for 9/11 had been “punished” via capital punishment – or death – I don’t run into the streets shouting every time someone I loathe ends up having a bad deal (unless they play for the Ravens).

    If Mendenhall were being cut simply for the twitter messages, he’d already be gone. But, we know that the Rooneys and the Steelers organization do not have good relations with past players who have gone outside of the expectations of the team and handled themselves in ways that reflect back onto the organization. See Santonio Holmes, for one. With everything that Roethlisberger was accused of, he still didn’t get a free pass per say with the team or organization, let alone the NFL. And Mike Tomlin is a stickler when it comes to not only staying within the bounds of league guidelines on conduct, but conduct within the organization.

    This returns me to this statement: Whether or not Mendenhall has any attitude or work-ethic issues, he still may end up being cut because the Steelers have to evaluate the worth of keeping him paid and on the PUP list for the 2012 season.
    Dave actually wrote a VERY good article about this:

    I appreciate your comments. Trust me, I work very hard to provide as much valuable information as possible. I understand that not everyone will agree with what I write – and so I thank you for inviting me to use sources that you feel are more reliable.

    Feel free to scroll down and read the other posts I’ve made in response to comments.

  • I personally respect Rashard Mendenhall as a person regardless of what he does on the field as a player. By getting to know him more personally, I’ve found that he is often very compassionate and thoughful. Thanks BettisFan36

  • silverstreakhl


    This is not meant to be a personal attack, but I think you’re not seeing the problem with the way you wrote this article. Yes, you quote Craig Gottschsalk, but why would you? If I wanted to read what he makes up, I’d go to his site. After you quote him, in the next paragraph, you write “his [Mendenhall’s] attitude was seriously questioned” as if it is now fact. See how quickly dumb rumor spreads– just takes the space of a paragraph. And while you, personally, may not have a problem with his tweets, the title of your piece asserts that they may be a factor in his release, again without a shred of evidence.

    I do think that you have a responsibility to take greater care when you write an article on a good site that is starting to get traffic. Nobody cares what we posters say but when you get a headline, what you say has weight. People will start to quote you, like you quoted Craig, and Steeler fans, being half nuts as we are, can begin to take gossip as truth. Unfair to Mendenhall at the very least.


    Thanks Christina for the personal response… I think Mendy has a lot going for him if he can overcome his injury — almost 3 years as a starter in the Pitt offensive scheme, power and speed, and remember, he’s still only 24!

  • SteelerElder39

    Another good pot-stiring blog my dear! Here’s my take. Concerning the “tweet” issue, if the Steeler ‘powers that be’ cut Rashard for a privacy of speech issue, then they need a LOT MORE HELP than a change of coaches can give them! About Mendenhall’s attitude problems, I believe it’s more a function of Frustation, than attitude. Any pro athlete who truly cares takes PRIDE in his Team Contribution & Performance. With last year’s pass-first offense, what pride, as a running back, could he achieve being relegated, time after time, to blocking 300 pound defensive linemen. It doesn’t take long for that to wear on you!!! And lastly, don’t take too many of the nay-sayers comments personally, especially when you link your sources as plainly as you did, where a blind person wearing sun glasses could find them. Post to next time.

  • Nolrog

    Mendenhall can absolutely say whatever he wants. That doesn’t mean, however, that people won’t hold him accountable for what he says.

    By the way, Free Speech doesn’t mean you can say anything you want anytime you want without repercussions.

  • Nolrog

    As a Steeler player, anything he says reflects on the organization.

    Besides, if they were going to cut him for that, he’d already be gone.

  • SteelerElder39

    Nolrog; I am totally in agreement with you. But had they done that, I would certainly not have wanted to be facing the maelstrom of ensuing negative, or perhaps derogatory, criticism. I am not averse to keeping Mendenhall considering he is only in his mid twenties. But a torn ACL, especially when no defensive player touched him, can easily be a career-ending injury! Physically, healing time could easily be ten to twelve months, or more. But what about mentally? Ten to twelve months, or maybe never?!! Either way, thank you for your reply Nolrog. Looking forward to posting with you again.

  • Sorry but this article reads like anti Steeler voice. Or one that just finds someone, in this case, Mendenhall, to write unsavory comments about.

    I always thought Mendenhall had a work ethic and as far as his attitude, too much politics brought into that. I also did not fid it offensive. I thought it an opinion, that’s all, and he has the right to that.

    I think of him as a necessity on this currently ‘broken’ team.