Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers activated offensive tackle Max Starks off of the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after having reconstructive knee surgery January of this year.
Today, the Steelers continued the trend and activated nose tackle Casey Hampton and running back Rashard Mendenhall, two players who also had reconstructive knee surgery this past January.
The biggest surprise of the three players is Mendenhall. General manager Kevin Colbert just said last week that he expected the team’s leading rusher to start the regular season on the PUP list, but for some reason has changed this mind.
Mendenhall’s trainers felt that the team’s leading rusher did everything that he could do with the training that was provided, and that he was ready to move on and practice with the team. Mendenhall said earlier in the offseason that he would be back for the 2012 NFL season, and from the looks of things, he is going to keep his promise.
This definitely shows the optimism that Colbert, head coach Mike Tomlin, and the rest of the Steelers organization has in the five-year veteran running back.
While on the PUP list, Mendenhall was expected to begin his season after Week 6 of the regular season. Well, since he has been removed from the PUP list, it could be assumed that Mendy will play well before then.
Colbert says that the recent series of injuries to Pittsburgh’s backfield has nothing to do with activating Mendenhall.
If you ask me, I think it has everything to do with the rash of injuries to the backfield. The expected starter of the regular season, Isaac Redman, is sidelined with a groin injury, and running back John Clay and fullback David Johnson are out for the season with a leg injury and a torn ACL and MCL respectively.
Pittsburgh is left with a thin backfield of Baron Batch, Jonathan Dwyer, and rookie Chris Rainey. The Steelers also recently signed rookie running back Jason Ford, but his is restricted from practicing with the team so far because of the new collective bargaining agreement rules.
Had this contagious injury bug not bitten Pittsburgh’s backfield, Mendenhall definitely would still be on the PUP list. Torn ACLs aren’t to be taken lightly, and this should be the same for Mendenhall, Hampton, and Starks.
I believe the knee problems of linebacker James Harrison and inconsistent play of rookie offensive tackle Mike Adams is what led to the activation of Hampton and Starks as well.
However, this rushed comeback from Mendenhall is too risky, especially for the position that he plays. Running back is arguably the toughest position to play in football, and has the shortest shelf life. All of the running, lateral cutting, and additional pressure can take its toll on a healthy knee. Just imagine what it will do to a knee eight months removed from reconstructive knee surgery.
Bottom line, I’m not a doctor, and only Mendenhall can tell us how his knee really feels. If he says that he’s ready for full contact, and the organization has the utmost faith in his reconstructed knee, then all Steeler Nation can do is trust, and look forward to an interesting football season.
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