Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear on Tuesday that the running back depth chart would not change this week and that former first round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall would have to wait for his next opportunity, if it ever comes.
Mendenhall was one of the 7 inactive players this past week against the Baltimore Ravens and appears to be headed for that same fait again this Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Tomlin made it clear that because Mendenhall does not play special teams, combined with the fact that they might need to dress 8 offensive linemen again, that the future unrestricted free agent running back would have to wait to redeem himself.
It has been a very disappointing year for Mendenhall, who is not yet even a year removed from his knee injury suffered in the final week of the 2011 season against the Cleveland Browns. He missed the first three games of the season continuing his rehab before making his season debut against the Philadelphia Eagles. In that game he registered over 100 all-purpose yards and scored once. Since that time, however, he has 21 rushes for 45 yards and 4 receptions totaling 28 yards in 3 games worth of action. Oh yeah, he has also fumbled 3 times in that limited action and lost one of them which played a big part in his demotion.
It is hard to fathom that Mendenhall has played in only 4 games this season. In addition to missing the first three games due to his rehab, he also missed four additional ones after suffering an Achilles injury in his second game back against the Tennessee Titans.
Will Mendenhall suit up again this season? Odds are good that he will considering how the Steelers stable of running backs have had a hard time staying healthy this season, but there are also no guarantees. Should Jonathan Dwyer hold down the job for the remainder of the season, Mendenhall might be lucky to dress for games, yet alone play in them.
Mendenhall will be unrestricted following the season and he will likely get offers on the market despite his decreased value. I stated back in June that I thought this could indeed be his final year in Pittsburgh, but I never envisioned that his final year would go the way this one has.
“Rashard will get an opportunity to redeem himself, I’m sure, at some point along this journey," Tomlin said on Tuesday. "That’s the nature of this thing. There’s ebb and flow and opportunities are presented."
Tomlin is right. There is ebb and flow and opportunities presented in the NFL, that ebb and flow, however, might end with Mendenhall being presented opportunities to play in a different uniform in 2013.