The Steelers suspended running back Rashard Mendenhall earlier this week. Now, there's word that the team is committed to meaningful contractual conversation with Mendenhall this offseason, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
This is a mistake and it goes beyond the suspension. Mendenhall, who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, has been banged-up this season and his play was declining last season even before his severe knee injury. The Steelers lost faith in him after he fumbled twice on four carries in Cleveland, which is why he was been inactive for two games prior to the suspension.
So, why are the Steelers thinking of re-signing Mendenhall? Honestly, I'm confused. The Steelers will bring back Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, both of whom are restricted free agents. This is also a prime time to get younger at this position and take a running back early in the draft. Teams have been able to have success with rookie running backs, and you don't have to take one in the top five like Trent Richardson. Doug Martin, David Wilson and Alfred Morris have been instant producers in their first season in the league.
There has been talk that the Steelers aren't furious with Mendenhall for him not showing up for last Sunday's game, which led to his suspension. In fact, the Steelers could've suspended Mendenhall four games. So, sitting him for one game is a slap on the wrist in comparison.
But it's a bad idea to bring back Mendenhall, and this is about what everyone has seen on the field. He doesn't run in between the tackles. He is too quick to bounce the ball to the outside, which has upset the Steelers' offensive linemen.
The Steelers usually make sound decisions in the offseason. Keeping Mendenhall wouldn't be one of them.