A forgettable season for Rashard Mendenhall should be his last in a Steelers uniform.
The Steelers announced Mendenhall has been suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the team. A source told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the team disciplined Mendenhall because he didn't show up to Heinz Field after he was told he wouldn't play. The suspension will cost Mendenhall $41,176.
Mendenhall has been inactive for the past two games since fumbling twice on four carries against Cleveland. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said last week that Mendenhall would get "an opportunity to redeem himself." After this suspension, I would bet against that happening now.
The benching was an indication Mendenhall was in the doghouse. The suspension indicates he likely will not be back with the Steelers next season, and the Steelers really have no reason to want him back. He was hurting the team on the field, and now he's a distraction in the locker room.
Mendenhall, the team's leading rusher for the previous three seasons, has battled injuries (offseason knee surgery and an Achilles injury) but hasn't been effective when healthy. He is third on the team this season with 113 yards rushing and has averaged 3.3 yards per carry.
It would be surprising to see the Steelers try to retain Mendenhall, the 23rd overall pick in the 2008 draft. He is an unrestricted free agent after the season.
The Steelers have gone with Jonathan Dwyer as their starter and Isaac Redman as the backup. Dwyer and Redman are both restricted free agents in 2013. It's also possible the Steelers will select a running back early in the 2013 draft.
It was a dramatic fall for Mendenhall, who had averaged 1,103 yards rushing in the previous three seasons. He came back from a severe knee injury suffered in last season's finale, but he never had the same impact as before.
Mendenhall made headlines before, but it was for his poor decision on Twitter. In May 2011, he ignited a Twitter controversy by questioning the events of 9/11 and expressing sympathy for Osama bin Laden.
The Steelers were able to move past that incident. The team needs to part ways with him after the season for this latest one.