A month ago, Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert provided a gloomy outlook for running back Rashard Mendenhall’s recovery from a January 1 ACL tear. Colbert said the Steelers wouldn’t count on Mendenhall to be ready for Week One, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review subsequently reported Mendenhall would open the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
After speaking to team sources, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an even more pessimistic view of Mendenhall’s future.
Bouchette suggests Mendenhall has taken “his last carry” in Pittsburgh, and that he might not play at all in 2012.
Sources told the Post-Gazette that the Steelers don’t believe Mendenhall will return to form “until at least the 2013 season,” and by that point Mendenhall may have signed elsewhere. Due a $700,000 salary in the final year of his rookie deal, Mendenhall’s contract expires next March.
If this is it for Mendenhall’s Steelers tenure, it will end disappointingly. The 23rd pick in the 2008 draft did churn out two 1,000-yard seasons, but Mendenhall holds a pedestrian career average of 4.14 yards per carry and drew the ire of the Steelers’ organization in May of 2011. Mendenhall never seemed to improve after a promising 2009 season. His development in the passing game has plateaued in recent years, and on several occasions last season the Steelers’ offense operated more smoothly with Isaac Redman in the backfield.