Rashard Mendenhall: Why Pittsburgh Steelers Will Be Fine Without RB in 2012
Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL in the final regular-season game last year and is not expected to return by the start of the 2012 season. He was effective on the ground before the injury, rushing for 928 yards and nine touchdowns with a solid 4.1 YPC average.
Despite his impressive numbers, the Steelers will not miss him in 2012. That is not to say Mendenhall is not a big-time player, but more of a testament to the excellent decisions the Steelers organization has made when it comes to building the roster.
To pick up the slack in the wake of Mendenhall's absence, the Steelers have a few more-than-capable running backs on the depth chart. Isaac Redman, Chris Rainey, Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay and Baron Batch are all fighting for playing time now that Mendenhall is out.
Redman is the starter going into the season. His outstanding performance in spot-duty last year, including the postseason, is reason enough to allow Redman to handle the load.
Behind Redman, there is going to be a large battle for playing time this preseason. Dwyer and Clay have loads of potential, but Dwyer has had health issues and Clay needs to earn his carries. Either could make the final roster and help out during key situations.
Rainey and Batch are exciting players and more-than-capable candidates as well. Rainey was picked by the Steelers in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft and has the skill set to break a game open at any moment. He is almost a lock for the final roster, barring an injury, because he is an excellent change-of-pace back.
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Batch, on the other hand, is well-known throughout the Steelers fanbase for his spectacular 2011 training camp with the team. He is loaded with potential and could have made the roster a year ago despite being a seventh-round pick, but he suffered a severe knee injury before camp concluded.
These five players behind Mendenhall could very well pick up the production the team is missing or even exceed it. If the Steelers pick the correct backs going into the season, there is a possibility Mendenhall could have a hard time winning his starting job back.
The Steelers have done an excellent job of creating a versatile backfield that covers literally every aspect of the dynamic NFL rushing attack. The team now has a great problem at the position—there's too much depth.
Until Mendenhall can return, the Steelers will be just fine. When he returns, Pittsburgh will be that much more formidable of an opponent to the AFC North and the rest of the NFL.
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