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Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Free Agents Analysis: RB Rashard Mendenhall – Unrestricted


The Pittsburgh Steelers offseason continues on and we will continue today with our breakdown of the free agents as we inch closer towards the start of free agency. Next up on the list of unrestricted free agents is running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Player: Rashard Mendenhall

Position: Running Back

Experience: 5 Years

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

2012 Salary Cap Hit: $3,436,000

2012 Season Breakdown: Mendenhall tore his ACL in the 2011 regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns and started training camp off on the PUP list as he continued with his fast moving recovery. He was, however, removed from the list prior to the regular season beginning, but remained sidelined until the Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. In his 2012 debut the Steelers former first round draft pick rushed for 68 yards on 13 carries and caught 3 passes for 33 yards and a touchdown in the win. At that point it looked as if he was on track to contribute heavily the rest of the season.

The following week against the Tennessee Titans Mendenhall had 6 carries for 6 yards to go along with 1 catch for 11 yards. He injured his Achilles in the third quarter and did not return. That injury was a huge setback for him as it cost him the next four games as a result. Upon his return against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11, Mendenhall ran for just 33 yards on 11 carries behind an offensive line that was starting to fall apart due to injuries.

The following week against the Cleveland Browns Mendenhall\'s season went from bad to worse as he fumbled twice on four carries. That led to him being demoted and he was ultimately made inactive for the next two games, the second of which he chose not to show up for at Heinz Field against the San Diego Chargers. Head coach Mike Tomlin suspended Mendenhall for one week for conduct detrimental to the team as a result of his actions. Upon his reinstatement following his suspension Mendenhall did not start but rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries in the crucial Week 16 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The following week against the Browns in the season finale Mendenhall carried the ball 6 times for 19 yards and caught 2 passes for 1 yard.

The final stat line for Mendenhall in 2012 was 51 carries for 182 yards and 9 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. He played all of 104 snaps on the season. Even though he played so few snaps he never looked to be fully back in the groove, especially after he returned from his Achilles injury.

Free Agency Outlook: Mendenhall, like the rest of the Steelers unrestricted free agents, will be allowed to test the waters once the signing period begins. The running back has forever been considered "different" and he admitted late in the season that he doesn\'t feel like he is a fit in Pittsburgh.

Mendenhall is only 25 years old and one full year removed from his knee injury. As a result of those two things he should have a few teams interested in his services during the free agency signing period. While he his not expected to get a deal that will break the bank, the best deal that he is offered will likely be more than what the cap strapped Steelers want to give him.

It would be interesting to see Mendenhall run behind a more zone blocking orientated offensive line scheme that new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. is expected to implement in 2013, but I don\'t think that we will get a chance to see that happen. Barring something unforeseen I fully expect that Mendenhall will be wearing a different uniform next season and the Steelers will once again turn to the draft to replace him.

Other 2012 Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Charlie Batch - Unrestricted Free Agent
Casey Hampton - Unrestricted Free Agent
Plaxico Burress - Unrestricted Free Agent
Larry Foote - Unrestricted Free Agent
Byron Leftwich - Unrestricted Free Agent
Will Allen - Unrestricted Free Agent
Max Starks - Unrestricted Free Agent
Greg Warren - Unrestricted Free Agent
Leonard Pope - Unrestricted Free Agent
Brandon Johnson - Unrestricted Free Agent

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Shannon Stephenson

    I actually hope we can resign him. I believe he has low mileage, can still play at a high lvl and come to us cheap. I know most disagree.

  • Garrett Hunt

    As long as the third and most important point is true (Come to us cheap) I agree completely

  • zyzak

    Why does everybody want him cheap? Who care what they spend on him, Fire harrison and sign him

  • Clint Martin

    Take a younger guy in the draft that has run the zone scheme and move on. He was drafted 1st round he doesn’t have the production he should have.
    Rashards biggest problem with finding the holes is reading a block even in the open field.

  • SteelSpine

    Stinks having to spend a draft pick now on a HB because we so need picks for other positions especially rds 1-3, but some consolations of drafting one (rd ~3):
    - The other HB rated ~equal to Mendy going into Mendy’s draft, Felix Jones, Jones’ team (Cryboys) moving on from Jones too. (But Ray Rice was in that draft too but oops we gotta forget about that one, hindsight’s 20/20, happens to every team).
    - HB is the one position a draftee can start for us in 1st year, insteada wait years as a backup developing.
    - The drafted HB probly gonna contribute as KR. Not that I agree with it, I’d rather use an expendable guy for KR. But Mendy & Redman didn’t contribute as returners at the times which they were backup RBs for games, & I doubt Dwyer or Batch on a KR could outrun a team 100 yds.
    - Re Mendy: When I thot of James Harrison’s long runback in SB (almost 100 yds after that int) I wonder if Mendy coulda made that long run. I doubt it because: Mendy explosive but I recall years ago seeing Mendy get caught from behind after ~20 yds. Then there was James’ tough plowing at end of that long run to get into endzone, & Mendy isn’t that tough of a runner. (& oh yeah it was a big game yet Harrison didn’t fumble it). So the endurance + plowing ability, a LB can do that but Mendy can’t?

    Yeah Dwyer can carry the load as our HB (if he is in shape), but I agree with fans who say draftpicks who can fit the bill for us can be had in round 3.

  • zyzak

    He’s 25

  • grw1960

    Maybe the Steelers should let Harrison return kicks and punts. After all what gunner is going to want to hit him hard?

  • steeltown

    It would be interesting to see Mendy run in a zone scheme, but oh well

    There’s really two main factors here. One, we are strapped cap wise and could use the services of other players at other positions more and Two, he really just doesnt seem like a Pittsburgh Steeler, especially after last season, It seems the coaches are either fed up or just dont have that much trust in him anymore

    I really see Arians signing Mendenhall.. as well as Starks

  • steeltown

    I actually agree.. but he’ll get a decent offer because of his age that the Steelers wont match

  • Clint Martin

    I am aware of that. He only has a couple years left.Running backs in the NFL average 5 years.Bring in a rookie to help the cap they will be way cheaper and fresh legs.
    Mendy isn’t a team player he won’t even be offered a contract they had problems with him this season he is gone.
    And an underachiever.

  • zyzak

    He has played 3 years

  • mokhkw

    I’m not a fan of Mendy, but looking at things from his perspective, his best bet may be to sign a 1-year deal w/incentives & stay with the Steelers for one more season.

    Teams aren’t paying big $s for RBs anymore, he’s coming off 2 leg injuries, has had issues with team management and twitter. Some one would likely give him a decent deal but if he came back for one year to an offense that he knows (new OL coach & zone blocking scheme + better players on OL than in his 1st 4 years) he could be very productive & increase his FA value for 2014.

    & with Ray Lewis retired, he might decide to square his shoulders and run harder – maybe even up the middle where there are 3 potential maulers in DeCastro,Pouncey & Colon.

    He’s also got the best FB he’s had since being here in Will Johnson, who I expect will b even better in 2013.

  • steeltown

    He was drafted in ’08 so technically he’s played 5yrs though he didnt see the field much last season. He was 21yrs old when drafted and now will be 26yrs old come June

  • steeltown

    I agree with drafting /bring in a rookie, just the implications of a low rookie contract alone makes that the smart move, not to mention the fact that our run game was abysmal last year.. need some new faces

  • steeltown

    I like Will Johnson

    I dont think Colon will be around this season, to costly and he doesnt really fit a zone blocking scheme, like you said he’s a straight up mauler, he doesnt play with much technique which is needed to play zone.. DeCastro, Pouncey and Mike Adams are perfect for zone blocking because they all move well and actually you could add Beachum to that list as well. He could very well be playing LG this season, unless they draft OG in the earlier Rds

  • mokhkw

    I really hope that they expand Will Johnson’s role next season. I would rather see him lined up at FB/H-Back that see Pope/Paulson used as a 2nd TE – he’s quicker, runs better, has better hands, is a better blocker. He was one of the few improved players on the Steelers O this year.

    For Zone schemes, once you get running behind the Guards it essentially turns into a man scheme anyway. Colon has good feet but would rather maul if given the chance. I think he still fits a zone scheme at Guard, if his footwork was good enough for RT then I can’t see why he would have too many troubles adapting. We were wondering last year if he could pull when moved to Guard & he showed he could do that effectively.

  • zyzak

    he also missed his rookie season

  • steeltown

    Agreed, but dont forget penalties, Colon was flagged alot for holding in 2012, 4times in that ONE game against the Eagles. Imagine him trying to shift and literally ‘hold’ his blocks, his technique is terrrible.. could get ugly

    I agree about W.Johnson.. I wrote awhile back that I thought the W.Johnson signing this past season was one of the best, most underrated and least talked about signings by the Steelers last year. There are a few others that ‘may’ pay off as well (A.Robinson, Drew Butler, Fangupo) but the W.Johnson signing payed dividends almost immediately. The guy is a hard worker and he’s played multiple positions on Offense and Defense in college. He just really seems like a Pittsburgh Steeler

    Oh and dont sleep on OG Justin Cheadle that we picked up late in the season.. guy is good mobile zone blocker. I like to try and pick a few guys before training camp gets under way that I think have a shot at making the Team. Cheadle is underrated and could very well end up being a backup Guard this season, kind of like Foster or Legursky making something out of nothing a few yrs ago

  • steeltown

    true.. so in regards to actual snaps.. it is more like 3yrs worth of wear and tear

  • Bradys_Dad

    OK, I’m a little biased here as I recently met and spent some time with RM. He’s a young guy and physical freak who has made some “questionable – stupid” mistakes since becoming a Steeler. Let’s take that aside for a second. There’s no disputing that this guy can run and has the ability to run over, around and past most (maybe a little too much spin move). If, and I agree that it’s a big IF, we can resign Rashard at fair market value price I believe he’d be a great fit in this new blocking scheme. I challenge any of us (especially those of us over 40) who can look back in all honesty and say that we didn’t make some stupid decisions in our early 20′s. There but for the grace of God go I right? Cut the guy a break, he needs to carry the ball higher and stay out of the media. He’s a good dude.

  • JohnnyV1

    Goodbye Rashard, nice knowing you. He’s not coming back.

  • steeltown

    I dont question him in that regard. I think social media is mind numbing on so many levels, but he has a right to his opinion and he actually is a very intelligent guy.

    I do agree he needs to carry the ball higher.. and I also agree in that I think he would thrive in a zone scheme. It just depends who else they are considering signing long term.. if they let guys like Wallace, Foster, Starks walk via FA then he could be re-signed

  • Dan

    Yep. Disagree. The vet min for a player in his 6th year is $685K. He is a known commodity. Can be decent when fully healthy but the chances of him going a full season healthy is extremely remote. Having him on the roster could take carries away from other runners who need to develop chemistry with the line and get into a rythym. Not to sound cold but I would treat like most teams treat kickers…let him sit by the phone for the first part of the season, then when somebody gets hurt, offer the minimum.

  • GunsDontKillWoodleyKills

    So you want to keep a guy who doesn’t show up for games? He showed what kind of teammate he is. Glad you aren’t the GM

  • Bradys_Dad

    Fingers crossed.

  • mokhkw

    While the Holding Penalties were a problem, I almost expected Colon to have some issues with them after not playing for 2 years & moving inside to Guard. As you noted about James Harrison & getting clothes-lined all the time, they’ll let the OTs get away with a lot more than they will for a G/C. I thought he was just starting to get the hang of it before he was injured & if he returns, I don’t expect it to be as big an issue as it was in ’12.

  • SteelSpine

    I think every bit of that is right on.

  • SteelSpine

    I agree just the implications of a rookie being cheaper (unless by unlikely odds it will be with our 1st rd pick) makes it a no-brainer IMO. Mendy brought speed which none of our other RBs did last year. But can find cheaper rookies who will do what Mendy can do.

    Btw in case anyone says Mendy’s veteran experience would be a plus to have tho his years are low mileage: Being in Tomlin’s doghouse inactive for games when healthy, said volumes about Tomlin ran out of patience with Mendy’s development. One of those times Tomlin said he made Mendy inactive (tho Mendy was healthy) because Mendy didnt prepare enough or wasn’t prepared, as in didnt study enough of the playbook to use him. We all make mistakes when young, & it was a new playbook last offseason, but would think a veteran would know they need to read playbook enough.

  • Clint Martin

    The Steelers have no intentions on resigning Mendenhall. Nothing personal just business. He is a good guy never got into trouble.

  • Clint Martin

    He got payed since 2008 the first year Ray Ray hurt him he left the team and went home for the season.He is not a team player.

  • Clint Martin

    Underachiever for a 1st round pick and afraid of contact and can’t read a block to save his life.

  • steeltown

    You could be right.

    I think its a tough decision to make for them.. do they still feel he will fit in their scheme on top of the fact that they can save $5million by releasing him after June 1st

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