PITTSBURGH (AP) - When Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin demoted running back Rashard Mendenhall to third-string following a fumble in a loss to Cleveland last month, Tomlin stressed Mendenhall would have a chance to redeem himself.
Not this week.
The Steelers suspended the mercurial Mendenhall for their game Sunday at Dallas for conduct detrimental to the team. Pittsburgh promoted running back Baron Batch from the practice squad to take Mendenhall’s place.
The suspension is the latest in a series of setbacks for the 25-year-old Mendenhall. He emerged as Pittsburgh’s starter in 2009 and topped 1,000 yards in 2009 and 2010. He nearly reached the milestone again last winter but tore the ACL in his right knee in the regular- season finale against Cleveland.
Mendenhall returned Oct. 4 and had 101 total yards and a touchdown in a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He strained his right Achilles four days later against Tennessee and never regained a firm grip on the starting job.
Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman shined in Mendenhall’s absence _ with one or the other rushing for more than 100 yards in three straight games _ and Mendenhall was dropped to third in the depth chart after he coughed up the ball in the first quarter against the Browns.
The Steelers (7-6) made Mendenhall inactive in a victory over Baltimore and last week’s 34-24 loss at home to San Diego. Though the running game struggled _ Dwyer led the Steelers with 32 yards _ Tomlin said he had no plans to make a change as Pittsburgh heads into the final three weeks of the season.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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