In perhaps the most unusual item to come out late last night, Adam Schefter reports that former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is retiring at the ripe old age of 26.
Though unusual, the news is actually not surprising, as Mendenhall himself prefaced it just a few weeks ago in a column that he penned for the Huffington Post.
In the article, titled “The Vision”, he wrote that “today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace”.
Earlier in the piece, published on the 25th of February, he described himself sitting on his couch the day after he tore his ACL in the season finale of the 2011 season, and he retold the vision that he had of a journey. He wrote that the journey he envisioned was of “the two years of rebuilding that would follow”.
Mendenhall struggled to get all the way back since tearing his ACL at the end of the 2011 season. He missed the first few games of the 2012 season before showing flashes. In his first game back against the Philadelphia Eagles, he rushed for 68 yards on 13 carries and caught three passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.
He would soon reinjure himself, however, and miss seven of the last 11 contests. After a nightmare game in Cleveland during which he fumbled twice, he was subsequently benched and later made a healthy scratch. He made the decision to not even show up to the game, which in large part helped seal his exit from Pittsburgh.
Mendenhall finished his career where so many former Steelers do, with the Arizona Cardinals. Under former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians—now the Cardinals’ head coach—he started and played in 15 games, but without much success.
Despite carrying the ball 217 times, he mustered just 687 yards behind a poor offensive line for just 3.2 yards per carry. It is worth pointing out, however, that he did finish the year with eight rushing touchdowns, though he also fumbled four times, losing three.
But Mendenhall’s career will not be defined without a lining of success, and at times even excellence. Perhaps he never truly reached his potential, but he has some numbers to be proud of.
From 2009 to 2011, Mendenhall rushed for 3309 yards on 794 carries, or about 4.2 yards per carry. He also had 29 touchdowns in that span. During the Super Bowl run of 2010, he added another 230 yards and four touchdowns in three playoff contests.
Mendenhall, the Steelers’ former first-round selection from the 2008 draft, has always been somewhat of an enigmatic character, and I don’t know that he ever truly fit in. He was the type of athlete that did not define, much less confine himself to his mere athleticism and his athletic pursuits.
Mendenhall will surely have a negative lasting image in the minds of many for the way he left Pittsburgh, and for his controversial expression in the wake of the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise.
I will choose to remember him for the curious character that he is, and he has fittingly chosen an uncharacteristic way to go out. His football career may be over, but surely his life’s work is just beginning.