The last day of training camp 2012 for the Steelers was more than just the final day of workouts sequestered at St. Vincent College, as both Casey Hampton and Rashard Mendenhall came off the PUP list. The tweets immediately started flying when the news was released by the teams website this afternoon and with it came the inevitable “are they are ready to play yet? ” and “can’t wait to see them back on the field” types of feelings coming out from Steeler Nation. As good as it is hear those names being called, it’s equally puzzling on the status of Jason Worilds.
As far as Mendenhall and Hampton go, word to the wise, guard your optimism of both players. Coming off the PUP is not a sign that they are ready to play yet. Neither will play on Sunday night against the Colts and neither is likely to play in any of the remaining preseason games. In fact, it would be more of a surprise if one or both played in the season opener against the Broncos.
As GM Kevin Colbert pointed out and reported by Ed Bouchette of the PIttsburgh Post Gazette, taking them off the PUP during the preseason shows that both are recovering well and ready to take the next step. However it also primarily means that had the team left them on the list to start the regular season they couldn’t have come off until week 6. Now, each can ease their way back into practice and back into game shape so if they are needed before then and they are ready, they can play.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Big Snack and Mendy (that’s kind of what we call Rashard around here if you didn’t know) play shortly after the bye week, which is week 4 this year (man I hate those early bye weeks, but I digress).
There’s no reason right now for either to try and rush back, and the Steelers coaches and trainers will surely keep a close eye on their recovery going forward just like they have all offseason long.
Nose Tackles Steve McLendon and rookie Alameda Ta’amu are both in good health and look able to hold down Hampton’s old position without a problem. McLendon especially has had an outstanding camp as Colbert mentioned at Latrobe, via Joe Starkey’s Twitter. He will start the year at NT and Ta’amu will be groomed for the future. Even though the team isn’t near ready to name a starting lineup for 2012, McLendon’s outstanding camp all but assures he’ll be the man in September. Should injuries strike or both young players struggle, Hampton will be ready to go when called upon, and that’s a very good thing in November and December.
If anyone was going to rush back you’d think it would be Mendenhall. Isaac Redman has had a nagging groin injury and Jonthan Dwyer missed some time as well. There wasn’t much left other than Chris Rainey and Baron Batch, neither with any NFL experience. However, Colbert said today also that Redman will be back in the rotation next week. Jonathan Dwyer returned to practice earlier this week and was looking sharp and lean. The Steelers ground attack is in good hands now and while Mendenhall recovers the young guys will continue to get valuable experience.
Jason Worilds is another story though. He’s been MIA for all the off season workouts and hasn’t been able to participate in any of training camp. His wrist injury has been somewhat of an enigma as we’ve heard virtually nothing about the seriousness of it, any surgical procedures forthcoming, or a timeline from the team on his return. The defense could definitely use him about now though as James Harrison recovers from his minor arthroscopic surgery this week. Worilds absence has paved the way for 2nd year linebacker Chris Carter and upstart rookie Adrian Robinson to get valuable experience. Each will get significant reps the rest of preseason and don’t be surprised if Carter starts out the year opposite Lamarr Woodley. Linebackers coach Keith Butler talked to the media about Harrison on Friday and mentioned that James is a guy who needs the practice to stay in game shape, so we don’t know how he’s going to be when he’s able to start. Kevin Colbert said though that if he knows James Harrison, he’ll be ready. So either way, this would be Worilds time to shine but nobody knows if or when we’ll see him this season.
As much as all love the Big Snack and know what type of player Rashard Mendenhall is, we shouldn’t expect them to be playing in the near future. If and when these 2 vets are called upon, they’ll be ready in 2012 and you can’t have too much depth late in the year that’s for sure.