Rashard Mendenhall: Former Steelers RB Is Worth a Shot for Cardinals

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IMarch 13, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 18 :  Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sidelines during the game against the Baltimore Ravens on November 18, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The general reaction when the Arizona Cardinals signed former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall on Wednesday?


And that's what it was: a "meh" move. But it's a "meh" move that could turn into a smart move.

The Cardinals signed the 25-year-old power back to a one-year contract on Wednesday, according to ESPN. It comes after they released Beanie Wells last week.

Mendenhall led the Steelers in rushing for three straight seasons, accumulating a combined 3,309 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground during that time. But he tore his ACL in Week 17 of the 2011 season, only to return in October 2012 and strain his right Achilles.

It marked a miserable 2012 for the Super Bowl XLIII champion. He played in only six games, rushing for 182 yards and no touchdowns on the ground.

Let's be clear: Mendenhall is not the same back that he once was. He may be just 25 years old, but he may as well be 30 given the bruising he's sustained throughout his five-year career.

But that doesn't mean he can't be a valuable member of Arizona's backfield.

Mendenhall will reunite with former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who is now the head coach in Arizona. Arians was in Pittsburgh when Mendenhall went on his three-year stretch as a battering ram.

It makes sense for both parties. Mendenhall may still have some left and he's at least an upgrade over Wells. In 2012, he ranked eighth-to-last among running backs in the 2013 free agent class, per ProFootballFocus.com. On the other hand, Wells ranked dead last.

If anyone can help Mendenhall rebound, it's Arians. It's a good fit for the 5'10", 225-pounder. Plus, the declarations of Mendenhall's demise may be a bit exaggerated. He's had time to heal since his torn ACL in 2011 and—as ProFootballFocus.com notes—he ranked 12th among all running backs in rushing before his injury.

While the news of Mendenhall's signing shouldn't have anybody jumping up and down in glee, it shouldn't have anybody sneering, either. It's a low-risk, high-reward option for the Cardinals. If it doesn't work out, it didn't cost them much, anyway. If it does, it's a bonus.

It's going to take time to build the Cardinals back up, but every small move—if done with a plan in place—is important in the big picture.


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