Coming off two lackluster seasons in Pittsburgh, Rashard Mendenhall
could take over as Arizona's top running back. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Rashard Mendenhall is not all that far removed from being one of the NFL's most productive running backs. The Arizona Cardinals are going to give him a shot to restore a little of his mojo.
Mendenhall rushed for 1,100 yards with the Steelers in 2009, then upped that number to 1,273 (with 13 touchdowns) in 2010. But he fell below the 1,000-yard mark in 2011 and played himself almost entirely off the Steelers' depth chart last season -- he was benched for multiple games, plus sat out Week 15 on a team-imposed suspension.
The Cardinals, though, are desperate for running back help. They had held out hope that Reggie Bush would make his way to the desert, only to see him sign in Detroit on Wednesday.
Earlier in the week, the Cardinals cut Beanie Wells, leaving Ryan Williams, William Powell and Alfonso Smith on the roster. Powell led that trio in yards last season with just 216; Williams had 164 in five games, as he battled injuries.
So, the door is wide open for Mendenhall to walk through and take over as the starting back. And that is doubly so because of Mendenhall's familiarity with new Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, once the Steelers' offensive coordinator.
Reportedly, Mendenhall received only a one-year deal from the Cardinals, so he'll have to prove himself in order to stick around (or receive another chance elsewhere).
The short length of Mendenhall's contract minimizes the risk here for Arizona. It also adds to the feeling that the Cardinals did not hit a home run -- perhaps they'll add another back, either via free agency or the draft. Mendenhall's background with Arians should come in handy, but he has to be more motivated than he was in 2012.