Steelers coach Mike Tomlin addresses suspension of Rashard Mendenhall

Jamie Squire

Coaches and players have become a bit more forthcoming on the true state of the locker room, and the reasons concerning the suspension of the Steelers former starting running back.

Ralph N. Paulk affirms in his latest TribLive exclusive what Behind The Steel Curtain speculated last week, that Rashard Mendenhall may have already played his last game for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mendenhall was suspended for one week for conduct detrimental to the team for not showing up to the Steelers week 14 home game against the San Diego Chargers, after being told the previous Wednesday that he would not be dressing for the second consecutive week.

Conspiracy theorists ran wild debating the true reason for the deactivation in the first place. The most predominant idea pertained to Mendenhall's two fumble performance against the Cleveland Browns in week 12, connecting his deactivation to the situation involving Jonathan Dwyer not dressing for two games following a fumble against the Oakland Raiders.

While neither case was confirmed to be results of the fumbles in question, coincidence often disguises itself as evidence.

Other theories speculated that head coach Mike Tomlin was simply mismanaging his players. Some felt that maybe Mendenhall was not fully recovered from his Achilles injury suffered in week 6 against the Titans, or even the ACL tear that ended his 2011 campaign. What prevented the extinguishing of hot gossip was a veil of silence instituted by the Steelers organization.

On Wednesday, the coaches and players involved broke that silence.

According to Paulk, following the day's practice, Tomlin addressed the situation. "I deem those actions a detriment to our efforts. I stated as such when I met with him, and there would be repercussions of it. We had a good visit. He accepted it. He looks forward to ... rejoining this team and being a positive contribution to our efforts the rest of the way. Obviously, there‘s frustration with his situation. But we all have a job to do. I require all guys have a job to do regardless of personal circumstances. He didn‘t meet the standard in that regard, and he‘s accepted the consequences of it."

While Mendenhall acknowledges his understanding of role asked of him by the Steelers, he speaks toward his intentions to explore his options upon the expiration of his contract. He does not rule out returning to the Steelers, but he does not speak as if that were his top priority. This feeling is shared by many employees who feel their employers fail to appreciate their efforts and contributions to the company. Mendenhall feels he will only be remembered for fumbles and Tweets, rather than multiple 1,000 yard seasons.

Even without the suspension, Mendenhall was unlikely to dress for the Steelers Week 15 contest against Dallas Cowboys. Tomlin said Mendenhall would continue to practice, and still leaves the door open for Mendenhall getting another chance to contribute; however, he provided the quote of the day. He neatly summed up the team's intention to continue their journey with, or most likely without, Mendenhall; while again using every possible opportunity to emphasize his expectations of his players.

"Hopefully this will be a lesson learned not only for him but for everyone, and we‘ll be able to move on from it."

Players were quoted as supporting Tomlin's decision to suspend the Steelers former first-round draft pick, while expressing understanding of Mendenhall's frustrations with his situation. Regardless of their sympathies, the majority feeling was that his decision to not join his teammates on Sunday was deserving of the consequences.

Despite the perceivable immaturity and selfishness of his actions, Mendenhall spoke in his own defense, cognizant of the situation; while fueling speculation that he may not return in 2013. While he did say once that he did want to stay in Pittsburgh, he spoke mainly on how he feels he is seen by the people of Pittsburgh and the members of the Steeler organization and its fanbase. He drew comparisons between the way Hines Ward is perceived and himself. "As long as I play in Pittsburgh, people will have a certain perception of me. The fans are going to remember this or that. As long as I‘m here, there will be these looming things over my head."


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