The Pittsburgh Steelers announced on Tuesday that they have suspended running back Rashard Mendenhall for one game for conduct detrimental to the team. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported a short time after that he was told the detrimental conduct was Mendenhall failing to show up at Heinz Field on Sunday for the game against the San Diego Chargers after being told that he would be inactive for the game.
Since the report surfaced many, including members of the media, have started suggesting that the Steelers just go ahead and release Mendenhall, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, so that both sides can get on with their business. While Mendenhall almost certainly will not be back in 2013, it is almost certain that the Steelers will not release him prior to the end of the season.
Keep in mind that Mendenhall is an unrestricted free agent. Even though the Steelers are unlikely to resign him, someone else will. That means that the Steelers stand to earn a 2014 compensatory draft pick for losing him via free agency. What that pick will be depends on several factors that are built into the compensatory draft pick formula. At the very worst he will bring a 7th round pick and the best case scenario would be a 3rd round pick.
In addition to that reason, Mendenhall would surely be claimed off waivers by another team and the Steelers certainly wouldn\’t want him to somehow wind up on another AFC playoff team, especially if they wind up making the playoffs themselves.
Like it or not, the Steelers still have question marks at the running back position as they head into their final three regular season games, and hopefully the playoffs. Keeping Mendenhall as depth still makes sense and his pending free agency value could be boosted should he wind up getting a chance to redeem himself and playing well while doing so.
Mendenhall stands to earn a $275,000 roster bonus by being on the Steelers roster for the last game of the regular season and his agent has reportedly said that his client will serve his suspension and return to the team next Monday in good spirits.
Mendenhall is frustrated right now and his actions from this past Sunday certainly can\’t be defended. All the Steelers can hope for is that he is true to his promise that he will return to the team with a better attitude. If he doesn\’t the team can just suspend him for the remainder of the season for more detrimental conduct.
At that point he will be out of sight, out of mind and eventually out of Pittsburgh. At least the Steelers won\’t miss out on an extra draft pick by handling him that way.