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Steelers notebook: Colbert says Mendenhall never 100 percent in 2012

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall takes a handoff during practice Dec, 19, 2012, on the South Side.

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By Alan Robinson
Monday, March 18, 2013, 6:45 p.m.

PHOENIX — Running back Rashard Mendenhall never was 100 percent healed from his serious knee injury during a disappointing 2012 season that ultimately led the Steelers to allow him to leave as a free agent, according to general manager Kevin Colbert.

Colbert's belief is that a player recovering from a torn ACL never fully recovers until a year later. In Mendenhall's case, that would have been in early January.

But while the two-time 1,000-yard rusher returned for the Steelers' fourth game — and had his most productive game all season with 68 yards rushing against the Eagles — Colbert doesn't believe he ever got back to the shape he was in during 2011.

“Honestly, I don't think he ever quite got to point where he was 100 percent as we've seen him before,” Colbert said.

Mendenhall, a first-round draft pick in 2008, ran for 1,108 yards in 2009, 1,223 yards in '10 and 928 yards in '11. But he finished with only 182 yards in six games during a 2012 season that included his benching for fumbling twice in Cleveland and a one-game suspension for skipping out on the team before a game in which he wasn't playing.

Colbert wasn't unhappy with Mendenhall's work habits, his attitude or his mental approach, despite the suspension.

Last week, Mendenhall signed a $2.5 million, one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals that includes numerous incentives. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was the Steelers' offensive coordinator during Mendenhall's first four seasons.

Team awarded 6th-round draft pick

The Steelers received a sixth-round pick this season (206th overall) as compensation for losing William Gay in free agency last year.

The Steelers re-signed Gay this month.

Spaeth officially signs

The Steelers made it official Monday by bringing back tight end Matt Spaeth, signing their former third-round draft pick to a two-year contract.

Spaeth was cut by the Bears last week after catching 13 passes in two seasons.

Spaeth, a 2007 draft pick, played for the Steelers from 2007-10 before joining the Bears. A favorite of coach Mike Tomlin because of his aggressive blocking style, Spaeth could help in the Steelers' deficient running game. He also supplies a veteran presence should starter Heath Miller, who's rehabilitating a torn ACL, not be ready to play early next season.

Spaeth has 49 catches and eight touchdowns in 91 career games, including 39 catches and five touchdowns in 60 games with the Steelers.

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