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 www.steelcityblitz.com. 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.