Any playing time in the first week would go against conventional wisdom, considering Mendenhall tore his ACL eight months ago. In addition, he did not even get any reps during preseason games.
Monday Night Football could provide some game time drama if Mendenhall is activated. His presence will affect Steeler fans and fantasy owners around the nation.
UPDATE: Sunday, September 9 at 9:30 a.m. ET by Adam Wells
It is not exactly the news the Steelers were hoping for, but it could be worse. According to Josina Anderson of ESPN, Isaac Redman will line up with the Steelers when the first-string offense takes the field against Denver.
Sources: Steelers RB Isaac Redman will get the start tonight against the Broncos.— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) September 9, 2012
This isn't a shocking revelation, as Mendenhall has been listed as doubtful for this game. Redman has proven to be a capable backup who can step up and take the reins when he is asked to.
Given that the weakness of Denver's defense has been against the run for the last two years, Redman should see a lot of carries early to try and exploit holes up front.
--------------------END OF UPDATE-----------------
UPDATE: Friday, September 7 at 3pm EST
Rashard Mendenhall is listed as doubtful for Sunday night vs. the Broncos, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.
AP listed as questionable - could see limited action Sun. Mendenhall doubtful as expected. Carlos Dunlap misses practices again for Bengals.— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 7, 2012
---END OF UPDATE---
Hope is abound in Pittsburgh for a healthy Rashard Mendenhall, after practicing without a knee brace on Wednesday. (via Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
Pittsburgh beat writer Ed Bouchette sounds hopeful as well:
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) September 5, 2012
Mendenhall’s status wouldn’t be a juicy topic without some contrarian reports. Jason La Canfora, NFL Insider for CBS Sports, thinks Mendenhall’s impact will be middling at best.
Rashard Mendenhall hasnt been officially ruled out by coach and he's made a shocking return, but hear unlikely he sees meaningful action Sun
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 7, 2012
Game Impact vs. Denver
The Steelers will attempt to rediscover their running game in 2012 creativity under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley—after avenging the 19th most rushes per game last season.
Look for the Steelers, Mendenhall or not, to exploit Denver’s run defense with a variety of backs and creativity. Mendenhall, Pittsburgh’s former starter, factors into that plan, but not just yet.
After finishing 20th in 20-plus yard runs last season, Pittsburgh needs more big plays out of the running game. The Steelers drafted change of pace backs Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey, who will see extended reps in this contest with Mendenhall’s health up in the air.
Fantasy owners who have smartly stashed Mendenhall on their bench should keep him there during Week 1.
Even if the Steelers’ back gets playing time, Pittsburgh has too many options at his position to get a workload worth a fantasy start.
Potential starter Issac Redman warrants a low-RB2 spot, or better yet, a flex play against the Broncos.
Pittsburgh likes to run the ball inside the five-yard line and Redman should be the recipient of those opportunities. Cheap touchdowns makes for fantasy riches.