Rashard Mendenhall Suspension: He took his ball and went home, now he should just stay there

Joe Sargent

The Steelers are fighting for the last wild card spot in the AFC, and Mendenhall deliberately insults his team and the fans of that team by not showing up to the Steelers' Week 14 game against San Diego.

Understatement of the year: Being an NFL running back is not like the jobs most Americans have. Those people don't have the same water cooler buzz each day, or carried out office drama as most regular people do.

Those regular people show up each day, dealing with the phone calls and the stress. They deal with that moron Patti who always burns her popcorn, and Tom, who simply does not shut up with his opinion about his latest reality show.

Patti shows up, though. As annoying as Tom may be, you can expect he'll be there.

At the risk of being melodramatic, Rashard Mendenhall's decision to not show up to the Steelers' Week 14 loss against San Diego goes far deeper than any alleged frustration he may have in not being activated for that game. It's a slap in the face of millions of people who show up to jobs they hate for very little pay.

They don't have a choice; what makes Mendenhall think that he does?

Some want to pass (more) blame onto Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for Mendenhall's disappearing act. "The run-by-committee approach is the reason he's upset," they shout. Tomlin has to make decisions based on what's best for the team at that particular time in the season. We only want to believe Mendenhall was benched because he fumbled twice in Week 12 against Cleveland.

What a crock.

First off, the run-by-committee approach is a convenient scapegoat for everything from the lack of offensive success to the fumblitis backs have had to the conflict in Syria to the suppression of digital audio and video technology. But neither Mike Tomlin nor Todd Haley nor running backs coach Kirby Wilson created the long-standing and time-tested move of sitting a running back after he fumbles. Between the three of them, I highly doubt they ever saw eight fumbles in a game, though, like the Steelers coughed up against Cleveland in that bitter loss.

Fans simply want to believe, because Jonathan Dwyer was allegedly benched after the Steelers' Week 3 loss against Oakland for fumbling, the same thing must be happening with Mendenhall.

Did no one notice Dwyer ran the ball three times against Oakland for a net of negative-1 yard? After the bye week, Mendenhall returned to the lineup, rushing 13 times for 68 yards. The Steelers dressed four running backs for each of those games. Mendenhall was out for Week 3, Dwyer was out for Week 5 (bye in Week 4).

Is there not plenty of evidence to support Dwyer being the odd man out in Week 5? Considering how well Mendenhall did against the Eagles in that Week 5 game, wasn't there plenty of reason to think he should get the helmet in Week 6, and not Dwyer?

"Oh, but he fumbled, and someone wrote he was benched because he fumbled!"

Maybe he was benched because his average production was moving the ball in the opposite direction. There was nothing about Dwyer's play in the first three weeks of the season that suggested he was getting the job done.

Mendenhall gets six carries against Tennessee, gains six yards and an Achilles injury. Redman eventually goes down in that game as well. It ends in one of the more embarrassing losses of a season full of embarrassing losses.

That brings Dwyer back into the fold. It's worth noting neither Mendenhall nor Redman fumbled against the Titans, they were both injured, and frankly, ineffective.

Dwyer capitalizes on his opportunity, going for a career-high 122 yards on 17 carries, the Steelers beat Cincinnati. He totes the rock for 107 on another 17-carry day in a Week 8 win over Washington. He gets hurt during that game, and with Mendenhall still hurt, Redman is thrown into the mix.

Redman becomes the only Steelers running back to eclipse the elusive 20-carry mark but chugging it 26 times for a season-high 147 yards in a 24-20 win over the Giants in Week 9.

Then the bottom fell out.

An injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger comes amid a poor offensive performance against Kansas City, led by Dwyer's 19 carries for 56 yards. Tomlin said leading into that game whichever back was running the best would get the ball. It was Dwyer in Weeks 12 and 13, but "best" is the operative word. He managed 21 carries for 74 yards in those two games.

Mendenhall fumbled twice against the Browns, that's true, but when Dwyer got back on the field after sitting in Weeks 5 and 6, he rattled off a big game. What did Mendenhall do? He fumbled twice on four carries, and gained six yards.

Did he expect to get the yeoman's share of carries against Baltimore the following week?

One of the several ineffective running backs had to sit in Week 13. Dwyer had shown he could be productive, as did Mendenhall and Redman. It wasn't about who fumbled the most.

Tomlin wanted to make a decision to stick with a running back, and to that point, his choice was Dwyer. It's hard to argue with it - although an argument can easily be made their options are severely limited. The fact Mendenhall wasn't the guy they went with should be upsetting to him. Understandable, even.

But to simply not show up upon being informed he would not play in the team's Week 14 game is inexcusable.

Rashard Mendenhall made the Steelers' pending offseason decision on whether to offer him an extension or maybe even consider the use of the franchise tag on their former first round pick very easy.

He's suspended for the team's Week 15 game, and it wouldn't be surprising if further action was taken. Just like we all have to show up and deal with the Pattis and Toms of the work world, Mendenhall decided he's better than everyone else, and if he doesn't like his work situation, he'll just pull a Peter Gibbons and not show up anymore.

He's just going to take his ball and go home. Maybe burn some popcorn in the microwave before he leaves.

Mendenhall dealt with this situation like a pansy, and because of that, should pack his stuff up and leave. While that isn't likely to happen, it's a fair conclusion to mildly disappointing career. There are at least a dozen running backs who have produced more than Mendenhall and were taken outside of the first round from 2008 until now. It's also fair to point out he has been a successful runner in stretches in his career. Regardless of that, though, his decision to undermine the team, the coaches and his teammates by not watching the game from the sidelines is an insult to everyone within that organization and should be viewed the same way by fans of the team.


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