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Rashard Mendenhall believes Steelers still want him

Rashard Mendenhall knew he would be inactive for the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 14 game against the San Diego Chargers, so he decided not to show up for it, according to NFL.com's Aditi Kinkhabwala.

Now Mendenhall has been suspended for a week, the Steelers announced Tuesday.

With just three weeks left in the season and his contract running out, it wouldn't be surprising if Mendenhall doesn't play for the Steelers ever again. But Mendenhall, who believed the team gave up on him before the suspension, now believes he's still in the Steelers' plans.

Kinkhabwala reports, citing a source close to the player, that the suspension led to "a lot of positive conversation" between the Steelers and Mendenhall, and he now believes he will be a factor down the stretch.

"I really believe Rashard is going to come back with great energy and great excitement," Mendenhall's agent, Mike McCartney, told Kinkhabwala. "He's going to embrace his teammates and his team, and he could be a huge part of a playoff run."

Mendenhall figures to be one of the more interesting free-agent running backs on the market this offseason. McCartney knows as well as anyone that this act of petulance in the middle of a playoff run isn't going to help his client.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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