Picture this: It's April 26, 2008 and the Steelers have the 23rd pick in the draft. Despite having major woes at offensive line, Pittsburgh selects a running back out of Illinois to become the feature back once Willie Parker's contract is up after the following season. At 5'10 225 pounds, the running back not only runs a smooth 4.45 40-time but also shows the ability to be a power back as well. In his final year of college ball, he records over 2000 total yards and 19 touchdowns.

Now fast forward to 2011.

That same back as had two season-ending injuries (cracked shoulder; torn ACL), stirred up controversy and unnecessary attention via social media, and is going into a contract year with one solid season of work in four years.

Rashard Mendenhall is a Pittsburgh Steeler, but maybe his time is quickly running out. The running back suffered a torn ACL last week against the Cleveland Browns, an injury which zaps speed and agility from running backs. Just look at Terrell Davis; Super Bowl MVP, 2000 yard rusher, 3-time Pro Bowl, 3-time All Pro. In 1999, Davis tore two ligaments in his knee and was forced to retire by 2002. While Mendenhall's injury may not be as severe, would the Steelers benefit from paying him a healthy contract, or would they be better suited to draft running backs in the late rounds like they have with wide receivers?

For some fans, seeing Mendenhall leave the city may create a feeling of relief; from twitter and"fumble machine", to not hitting the hole fast enough and tip toeing, Rashard has not endeared himself to the Pittsburgh faithful. In my opinion, Mendenhall is a very talented player whose most recent injury was plain bad luck. At the same time, his first four seasons in Pittsburgh have been uninspiring for the most part. Yes, he ran for nearly 2400 yards in the last two season while scoring 20 rushing touchdowns, but he is 24 years old and has already received two major injuries; the second injury, capping off a below average season. In a position that already involves a short career span, Mendenhall has proven to lack durability from the beginning.

The timing of his injury is extremely detrimental to his chances of returning considering, it takes about 6-8 months to recover from an ACL injury which means he will have a late start to the 2012-2013 season. Chris Johnson, who was selected right after Mendenhall in the 2008 draft, just finished the worst season of his career thanks to a late start in training camp. While Johnson's holdout was the reason for his ineffectiveness on the field, it only further proves how difficult it is going to be for Mendenhall to return to mid-season form after recovering from a major knee injury.

With his contract season looking more and more daunting, Mendenhall will have two choices in the Spring of 2013: A) Receive a contract considerably lower than most feature backs in the league; B) Go somewhere else and hope a team offers him a ton of money.

Obviously, the rest of the market affects whether or not he decides to choose B but, given how cocky and arrogant he appears to look on twitter, my guess is that he will not choose option A. This is the same player who lost his endorsement to Champion after the controversy involving his Bin Laden tweets became a nationwide story. He's also the same player who agreed with Adrian Peterson over the analogy that the NFL was "modern day slavery"; a statement the Rooneys weren't too fond of, I'm sure. He also has not endeared himself to some of his teammates, such as James Harrison who called Mendenhall a "fumble machine" in his interview with Men's Journal.

The Steelers took Rashard Mendenhall in what was considered a steal on draft day. He was projected to go in the middle of the first round but fell to 23 after the Cowboys selected Felix Jones. Rashard has shown, at times, that he is a talented and capable back but it appears his four years in Pittsburgh have been mired with injuries, inconsistencies and general "misunderstandings". Although he ran for nearly 1300 yards in the 2010-2011 season, he'll most likely be remembered for fumbling the ball in Super Bowl XLV which effectively ended a possible game winning drive and secured the franchise's second Super Bowl loss in eight chances.

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