Former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall dashes past Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks and the rest of the Eagles defense for a long run in the first quarter of game at Heinz Field in October.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Rashard Mendenhall, the talented but star-crossed Steelers running back, signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, his agent announced this afternoon.
Still only 25 after five NFL seasons with the Steelers, Mendenhall will be reunited in Arizona with his former offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, Bruce Arians, the new head coach of the Cardinals.
Mendenhall, the Steelers No. 1 draft pick in 2008, ran for only 182 yards on 51 carries in a season marred by injuries and his own defection from the team last year. He was an unrestricted free agent.
His pro career got off to a dubious start after the Steelers drafted him with the 23rd overall pick from Illinois. His shoulder was broken in his fourth game and his first NFL start when Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis slammed into him. Mendenhall went on injured reserve and the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.
He bounced back from that injury in a strong way by leading the Steelers with 1,108 yards rushing in 2009 and then 1,273 yards in 2010, scoring 20 touchdowns combined in those two seasons. However, his fourth-quarter fumble at the Green Bay 36 in Super Bowl XLV cost the Steelers a scoring opportunity in a 31-25 Packers victory.
That play, and his subsequent writings on Twitter about the death of Osama bin Laden three months later hurt his popularity with Steelers fans.
He wrote: "What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side ..."
Mendenhall also questioned how jet airplanes could take down the Twin Towers in New York.
Nevertheless, he was on his way to a possible 1,000-yard season again with the Steelers in 2011 when his ACL was torn in the last game of the regular season against Cleveland on his eight carry. He finished with 928 yards. The Steelers placed him on injured reserve and he did not return to play until the fourth game of last season.
He played only two games before an achilles injury knocked him out of the next four games. He played in two more but then lost his starting job and fell behind Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. When he was informed he would not be active for the Dec. 9 game against San Diego, Mendenhall left and did not stay for the game, as the Steelers require. Coach Mike Tomlin suspended him for the following game.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published March 13, 2013 6:45 PM