Even before his suspension for not showing up for last week’s game, Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall knew he was playing out the string in Pittsburgh.
After he lost his starting job, was a healthy scratch against the Ravens, his decision to bail on the Chargers game, the suspension and his pending free agency created a pretty clear path to the door.
“I would have to weigh everything, but ultimately I’ve never been a person to do things out of comfort,” Mendenhall told Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review prior to his suspension. “I‘m going to do whatever is right regardless. I’m not going to hang around for a reason like that just because I’ve been here.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said not showing up last week was inexcusable.
“I deem those actions a detriment to our efforts,” Tomlin said. “I stated as such when I met with him, and there would be repercussions of it. We had a good visit. He accepted it.”
Mendenhall had a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons, thinks Steelers fans will only remember his fumbles, getting demoted or his Osama bin Laden tweets.
“Anything that happens, which is usually negative, that’s the only picture people have of me,” Mendenhall said. “When you think of Hines Ward, you think of his smile. You can forget if he drops a pass. There’s something to balance it out.”
Mostly, he seems to feel constricted there.
“By the nature of being in the NFL and being in the locker room, representing the Steelers, you have to be a certain way and things have to be a certain way,” he said. “Yes, if I want to stay here, I have to be in a certain box. . . .
“When I first got here, I thought that I wanted play with one team. With a lot of how I’ve been represented football-wise, I’m closed off and to myself. I don’t say a lot or do a lot, and because of that, people really don’t know who I am. They really can’t read me. So it’s up to others to interpret who I am.
“People want me to act a certain way when I move around Pittsburgh. That’s when it gets frustrating. Sometimes when people try to project the football player image on me, that’s when it doesn’t fit.”
Based on those comments, you wonder if Mendenhall will feel valued in his next stop, which is clearly coming soon.