Rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall has recovered so well from a broken shoulder blade that he could have played the final month of the regular season and into the postseason if he hadn't been placed on injured reserve.
Mendenhall, the team's No. 1 draft pick, was injured in Week Four against the Baltimore Ravens when he was tackled by linebacker Ray Lewis. Mendenhall did not have surgery. Such an injury is more associated with car accidents than football games.
"He's way ahead on his rehab," Colbert said. "He looks good at this point and all the medical reports indicate he'll have a full recovery."
There have been instances where the Steelers have kept other injured players on the 53-man roster for an extended period, hoping they could return late in the season or for the playoffs.
A most recent example is tackle Marvel Smith, who missed the final 11 games of the regular season with a back injury but wasn't placed on injured reserve until Dec. 23.
"He could have come back late in the year, but, at that point, we didn't think we could afford to carry him," Colbert said of Mendenhall. "I remember talking about that, saying it's a possibility. But it becomes a luxury when trying to deal with 53 active players.
"If it's a veteran guy, like the Steelers did with Rod Woodson that Super Bowl year (1995), they kept him alive for the whole year because he's Rod Woodson, first of all, and he knew what to do. And he was going to be able to come back and play like he did.
"This year, we carried Marvel as long as we could until we got to that point when we needed that spot."