Former Steelers Running Back Rashard Mendenhall Set To Retire At 26

In perhaps the most unusual item to come out late last night, Adam Schefter reports that former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is retiring at the ripe old age of 26.

Though unusual, the news is actually not surprising, as Mendenhall himself prefaced it just a few weeks ago in a column that he penned for the Huffington Post.

In the article, titled “The Vision”, he wrote that “today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace”.

Earlier in the piece, published on the 25th of February, he described himself sitting on his couch the day after he tore his ACL in the season finale of the 2011 season, and he retold the vision that he had of a journey. He wrote that the journey he envisioned was of “the two years of rebuilding that would follow”.

Mendenhall struggled to get all the way back since tearing his ACL at the end of the 2011 season. He missed the first few games of the 2012 season before showing flashes. In his first game back against the Philadelphia Eagles, he rushed for 68 yards on 13 carries and caught three passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.

He would soon reinjure himself, however, and miss seven of the last 11 contests. After a nightmare game in Cleveland during which he fumbled twice, he was subsequently benched and later made a healthy scratch. He made the decision to not even show up to the game, which in large part helped seal his exit from Pittsburgh.

Mendenhall finished his career where so many former Steelers do, with the Arizona Cardinals. Under former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians—now the Cardinals’ head coach—he started and played in 15 games, but without much success.

Despite carrying the ball 217 times, he mustered just 687 yards behind a poor offensive line for just 3.2 yards per carry. It is worth pointing out, however, that he did finish the year with eight rushing touchdowns, though he also fumbled four times, losing three.

But Mendenhall’s career will not be defined without a lining of success, and at times even excellence. Perhaps he never truly reached his potential, but he has some numbers to be proud of.

From 2009 to 2011, Mendenhall rushed for 3309 yards on 794 carries, or about 4.2 yards per carry. He also had 29 touchdowns in that span. During the Super Bowl run of 2010, he added another 230 yards and four touchdowns in three playoff contests.

Mendenhall, the Steelers’ former first-round selection from the 2008 draft, has always been somewhat of an enigmatic character, and I don’t know that he ever truly fit in. He was the type of athlete that did not define, much less confine himself to his mere athleticism and his athletic pursuits.

Mendenhall will surely have a negative lasting image in the minds of many for the way he left Pittsburgh, and for his controversial expression in the wake of the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise.

I will choose to remember him for the curious character that he is, and he has fittingly chosen an uncharacteristic way to go out. His football career may be over, but surely his life’s work is just beginning.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • 20Stoney

    He was different……I think he saw football as a means to an end, some money and maybe name recognition.

  • Brian Tollini

    Agreed. It certainly didn’t seem to be a passion. His comments on Bin Laden and 9/11 left a sour taste for many and his fumble in the Super Bowl will be remembered by others. He had a few impressive years and at his peak was a solid back, but the overall feel for me is an odd character with untapped potential.

  • Nolrog

    And the infamous 2008 draft just keeps getting better. Bad enough that none are left on the Steelers, but only 1 (Ryan Munday) is still playing football. There are stinkers and then there is the Steelers 2008 draft, in a stinker class all its own.

  • Game_Time

    Talent made the “Dream” possible. The lack of Love for the Game made it a “Nightmare”

  • michael young

    I mean, it was obvious this dude never loved the game. Mad talent, no heart. He can spin move his ace out of the league. Hope he doesn’t fumble his retirement paperwork.

  • LabRat0116

    SteelerNation needs to acknowledge this fact that although a player maybe the most gifted physically (in size and athleticism), if he does not posses the heart and soul of a true Warrior, he is completely useless! ie……what-the-hell is Mike Adams doing on this team ?

  • Douglas Andrews

    Smart guy made his millions and leaves the game healthy on his own terms. I remember when Robert Smith RB left the Vikings he was around the same age and it worked out pretty well for him but at the time it seemed like a head scratcher. Rashard had an ok career and made a trip to the SB something a lot of great players don’t get a chance to do. God bless him thanks Mendy for all you did with the Steelers and Best of luck with your next venture in life.

  • 20Stoney

    And at the time, the “draft experts” were saying what a great draft it was. Just goes to show ya……

  • treeher

    Hopefully he is financially fixed after signing a 12.5 mil contract with Steelers (7.5 guaranteed) and earned $2.5 mil with Arizona. He was due either for a big pay cut or even cap cut, so maybe the writing was on the wall.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I don’t think his heart was in the game and thus his full 100% devotion and concentration.

    The fumbles to me were part of it but his curious comments also. To call out Ray Lewis basically right before the game and have Ray meet him in the hole and break his shoulder. He never seemed to hit the hole as fast in my opinion after that when he came back.

    I think his head and love for the game is what held him back. The athleticism was there as shown in his numbers despite him fighting an internal battle.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I think you are wrong about Mike Adams and need to worry about Gilbert. Its not Mike’s fault he was put in a position he wasn’t good at, right after being stabbed and missing time training and conditioning. He is a better R/T than Gilbert and I think Munchak will expose Gilbert for the fraud he is.

    Come into camp again so out of shape you collapse trying to pass the basic conditioning test and watch what happens Mr Gilbert.

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  • Shannon Stephenson

    Mendenhall lacked heart and it was evident…I do not think Adams lacks heart from what I have witnessed.

  • tim

    I truly think that Lewis hit changed everything for him… ARE right, he NEVER really ran thru a hole after that with his shoulders squared, he was always trying to get outside and would never take on anyone bigger than he was and deliver a blow, ONLY to a CB etc would he think of doing it….

  • srdan

    This is odd. But I don’t think this is something that surfaced in teh last few years. There had to be signs of this at the Combine when teams were looking at him. I guess our FO thought that it could be overcome.

    Either way, this guy dances to a different beat, and I admire people like that.

    As far as his comments, I interpreted them differently than most people. Mendy seems like a very compassionate person and his tweets were compassionate towards a person that in many eyes doesn’t deserve compassion. 34 is exactly the type of person that defense attorneys seek in court to serve as jurors. His tweets were interpreted as being unpatriotic and offensive by the media. I question his judgement to address the issue, especially at teh time he did.

  • Jeff J

    Tony Hills plays for the Raiders, Ryan Mundy plays for the Giants and Dennis Dixon plays for the Bills. Bruce Davis and Limas Sweed are in the Canadian league. The only two players from the 2008 draft out of football are Mendenhall and Mike Humpal.

  • steelster

    He was never the same after he fumbled against the packers in the superbowl. He lost his confidence and it didn’t help that james Harrison publicly blamed the loss on him when james didn’t play well either. The steelers lost as a team that day to a better packers team.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Oh the irony. Mendy’s article is titled “The Vision.” Man, you can’t make this stuff up. That guy had a pair of wide eyes and he was blind as a bat when it came to finding the holes.

    Good for him to retire. Hope he enjoys retirement and use his money wisely. No hard feeling but he was an athlete and NOT a NFL running back. Big difference.

  • HiVul

    Agreed, people say he lacks “heart,” whatever that means, but no player owes it to anyone to play longer than they intended to. It takes a lot of maturity to set your own path in life and to realize that maybe what everyone expects of you isn’t what you want for yourself. I don’t think Mendenhall half-assed it when he was in Pittsburgh, but goals and priorities change. I’d much rather see a player walk away from the game early than play without passion.

  • CrazyTerry

    What do you mean Harrison didn’t play well? He wasn’t going against Mike Adams at LT. Their other best player Polamalu stunk up the joint in that game and they still limited the Packers offense to an OK number of points. If Polamalu has a better game, they could have forced GB to get FGs instead of TDs on a couple of drives. The Steelers offfnese gave away 7 points directly and they should be held accountable for 3 points in each of the two 7 point drives that came off of turnovers.

  • steelster

    my point was that you shouldn’t call out a player for one bad play when Harrison only had one tackle in that game. Polamalu only had 3 tackles and big ben threw a pick six and missed a wide open mike Wallace for a touchdown. It was a team loss.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Good point I agree whole hardily and to all those who throw out that he “lacks heart” I say there’s no way you make it to the NFL by “lacking heart”. I never played on the professional level but it takes some kind of makeup within to reach that level.

  • Labrat0116

    Let’s just call it the KILLER INSTINCT then!

    That is what separates the men from the boys in the NFL….and Mike Adams does not possess that Killer Instinct!