Mendenhall Retirement Should Serve as a Reminder to Steelers

Rashard Mendenhall Former Steelers’ running back Rashard Mendenhall retired this week at the age of 26. Is it really possible to actually retire at that age? I guess it is and we should all be so lucky.

Despite not playing for the Steelers last season (he played in Arizona), the bulk of Mendenhall’s career was spent in the Steel City.

For most of his five seasons he was the feature back in the offense yet never really lived up to his first round selection.

The drafting of the young man out of Illinois spelled the beginning of a really poor draft for the Steelers. It also included Limas Sweed, Bruce Davis, Tony Hills and Dennis Dixon.

Tip-toeing through holes and bouncing too many runs outside were just a couple of the things that drove fans crazy but then the fumble happened in Super Bowl XLV. His fate was basically sealed in the minds of most Steelers’ fans on that one fateful play that may or may not have led to the loss of ring number seven.

There were also his comments regarding the death of Osama bin Laden and his asking why did we celebrate the death of other human beings. The social media outrage over his comments was predictably on fire and he spent much of the days following trying to change what he had said.

All that aside, Mendenhall should in some circles be celebrated as a man who was more than just football. He was clearly interested in social issues, philosophy and current events and we should be proud to have such a well-rounded young man in our organization but there’s a major problem there too.

The Steelers knew before they drafted Rashard Mendenhall that he was not ‘all football all the time.’ Mendenhall had said as much in an ESPN interview. I’m not suggesting that being a gym rat and a film guy make a team suddenly a Super Bowl favorite year in and year out but it was clear that Mendenhall had other interests outside of being a great player.

I don’t know that being a great player was ever really that important to him and that’s his prerogative. The moral of the story with Rashard Mendenhall is that the Steelers must do a better job of vetting potential draft picks.

They don’t have to die-hards but they should be guys who know what priority comes first.

Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 730pm ET talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.

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3 comments on “Mendenhall Retirement Should Serve as a Reminder to Steelers

  1. I’ve struggled with this Mendenhall situation, because the general reactions has been positive to his writing. And it was insightful, and well written, but I sort of rolled my eyes a few times.

    Let me start by saying he’s welcome to do whatever he wants. Like you said, we should all be so lucky to make money and get to “retire” to do whatever we want at 26 (which I just turned in February).

    The stuff about Mendenhall being a football player and not an entertainer made me roll my eyes though. That’s not why Mendenhall failed to live up to expectations. Heath Miller might be the most un-entertaining player in football. Mendenhall was a great physical talent, but he was soft and a little selfish in my opinion.

    I followed Rashard on twitter, and I specifically remember some vulgar tweets about women shortly before the Bin Laden situation. I posted at the time on a message board I was worried about his comments, and I was told I was crazy, and then he tweeted his Bin Laden stuff and it blew up.

    Mendenhall always annoyed me a little because I felt like he tried way too hard to tell everyone what a deep thinker and and how interesting he was.

    I know this will come off as sour grapes… and maybe it is. I wish Rashard the best, and like you said his failure was largely the Steelers’ fault, not Rashard’s for being what he is.

    • Whether athletes today like it or not, they are in fact entertainers. Not in the true sense of the word but let’s face it; we watch because we find what they do to be entertaining. Mendy had other interests outside of football as many current and former players do but the difference is passion. I just don’t think he really ever had a ton of passion for the game.

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