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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