PITTSBURGH – Former first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall might have played his last game for the Steelers.
The Steelers announced Tuesday they have suspended Mendenhall for Sunday’s game at Dallas for conduct detrimental to the team.
According to sources, Mendenahall, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, failed to show up at Heinz Field for the Steelers’ 34-24 loss Sunday after he was informed he would be inactive for the second consecutive game despite being healthy.
The Steelers promoted running back Baron Batch from their practice squad to fill Mendenhall’s roster spot.
Mendenhall, the Steelers’ top draft pick in 2008, has been listed as inactive after losing two fumbles on just four carries in a 20-14 loss at Cleveland Nov. 18.
Following that game, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin named Jonathan Dwyer the team’s starting running back and demoted Mendenhall to third string behind Dwyer and Isaac Redman.
Mendenhall will lose $41,000 in salary this week.
Earlier in the day, Tomlin was asked if he planned on making any changes in the running back rotation the team has used the past two weeks.
Pittsburgh’s running game has sputtered of late, gaining 155 yards on 43 attempts since Mendenhall’s demotion.
“No, not as I sit here right now,” said Tomlin. “We intend to utilize the same people that we did last week.”
This is not the first time Mendenhall has drawn the team’s ire. In 2010, he caused a stir on Twitter when he agreed with a tweet from Minnesota star Adrian Peterson comparing NFL players to slaves. A few months later, he again became the subject of unwanted attention when he Tweeted some controversial statements about the killing of terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
Mendenhall, a former University of Illinois star, has led the Steelers in rushing three times, including 1,000-yard seasons in 2009 and 2010. He just missed a third-consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2011 when he suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of the final regular season game at Cleveland.
Mendenhall surprisingly returned this season in a Week 4 win over Philadelphia, leading the Steelers with 68 yards on 13 carries and scoring the team’s lone touchdown in a 16-14 victory.
But he suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury the following week in a loss at Tennessee and has been active in just two games since.
Mendenhall, who has rushed for 113 yards on 34 attempts this season, has gained 3,480 yards for the Steelers, placing him ninth on the team’s all-time list.