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Monday, February 18, 2013
Top free agents in the division: No. 20

By Jamison Hensley

Free agency officially begins March 12, so the AFC North blog is counting down the 20 best free agents (unrestricted and restricted) from the teams in the division. This list includes players who are free agents on Feb. 18 (and not the ones who are released after that date). Let's start with No. 20 ...

RASHARD MENDENHALL

Steelers running back

Status: Unrestricted free agent

The good: Mendenhall is only 25 and is a full season removed from a severe knee injury. From 2009 to 2011, Mendenhall averaged 4.1 yards per carry and scored 29 touchdowns.

The bad: Mendenhall's production has been in decline for the past two seasons and it's been the result of his running style moreso than injuries (knee and Achilles). He doesn't grind out yards in between the tackles and is too quick to bounce to the outside. Last season, he finished with 182 yards rushing, his fewest since his rookie year. There were problems on the field (fumbling) and off of it (leaving Heinz Field after being told he wouldn't dress for a game).

The bottom line: Some team will give Mendenhall a second chance because of his age and previous success, but it likely won't be the cap-strapped Steelers. He also won't get much attention early in a free-agent class where he ranks behind Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush and Ahmad Bradshaw. Mendenhall has talent, he just seems to have lost his edge as a runner.