When the season opens in 2012, there is a great possibility that two starters from the 2011 campaign will be on the PUP list for the Steelers, running back Rashard Mendenhall and nose tackle Casey Hampton. Ironically, this was to be (and is) a huge season for both players as the Steelers weigh their contract options moving into 2013.Cleveland Browns, tore his right ACL on the final play of the first quarter. That injury capped a somewhat disappointing 2011 season in which he ran for 928 yards and nine touchdowns. Fortunately, for the Steelers, they appear to have depth at the running back position and do not have to rush Mendenhall in his recovery.
Even General Manager Kevin Colbert expects Mendenhall (and Hampton) to return in 2012. “My guess is they’ll open the season on the PUP,” said Colbert, “You’ve got to remember both of those injuries happen late in the year.” If this is the case, neither player will be eligible to return until after the Steelers’ sixth game (Week 8 of the NFL season).
With Mendenhall on the mend, the Steelers will rely on Isaac Redman to carry the load. While he is solid and a powerful back (not to mention a fan favorite), he does not have the pedigree of Mendenhall and may not be able to be the player fans are expecting. In fact, fans may miss Mendenhall more than they expect.
One quick glance at his enigmatic career shows some strong numbers, especially when one considers the uneven offensive line play and an offensive coordinator that refused to commit to the run. Between the 2009 and 2010 seasons, he rushed for 2,381 yards and 20 touchdowns, and also added some flash as an outlet receiver.
In many ways, it is a shame that he is injured going into 2012, as he has a skill set that mirrors what offensive coordinator Todd Haley looks for in a all-purpose back, with the size, speed and hands to develop into a solid weapon for the offense. More importantly, the former first round selection would have had one last full season to show whether he is the long-term answer in the backfield, something that remains a question mark today.
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