The Pittsburgh Steelers and General Manager Kevin Colbert are now claiming that Rashard Mendenhall may in fact see some action 2012. According to ESPN AFC North Insider Jamison Hensley, Colbert claims the Steelers will get Mendenhall some playing time if indeed he heals and rehabs as expected.
Colbert believes running backs usually aren’t 100% for a full 12 months after tearing an ACL. With that said, one has to wonder just what capacity would Mendenhall be used for in 2012.
Following next season, he becomes an unrestricted free agent meaning he is free to sign with any team in the league. The Steelers therefore will need to be somewhat cautious in how they use Mendenhall in the 2012 season. Either way, there are a couple of variables that are going to be interesting to keep an eye as the season unfolds.
First, we can expect that Mendenhall will spend the first six weeks on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List. His return will be dictated in large part by his health but also by the status of the running backs carrying the load during those opening weeks. Will Isaac Redman be the one carrying that load? Will Jonathan Dwyer or John Clay be splitting time with Redman or riding the pine? What will be the status of Baron Batch who will essentially be starting his rookie season over after tearing his ACL in training camp last August?
If Pittsburgh finds that Mendy is back to his old self and his numbers are reflective of that then the potential is there for a new contract. Those other variables however, will dictate a lot of the thinking of the front office and Mike Tomlin. As an unrestricted free agent, the Steelers get nothing should Mendenhall sign elsewhere for 2013. Because of this, the Steelers may not want to use him too much if they honestly think he is all the way back.
If they feel he is healthy and ready to go, could they possibly offer him a smaller contract? If he returns and absolutely tears it up, that could mean a bigger pay day and perhaps even from someone other than the Steelers.
This is going to be a situation that unfolds all season. Of course Redman could just be an absolute stud and make the whole thing a moot point, but then again, nothing comes that easy to the Steelers.