UPDATE: Friday, Oct. 5 at 1:21 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant
Although the drama had been taken out by previous reports, the Steelers made it official with their injury report, listing Mendenhall as probable for the game on Sunday.
According to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburg Tribune Review, the official listing leaves little doubt that Mendenhall will make his first start of the season.
Mendenhall, Polamalu, Harrison, Gilbert all listed as probable for Sunday vs. Eagles. Translation: They will all play.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) October 5, 2012
Great news for the Steelers and your fantasy football team, if you drafted Mendenhall or made him a waiver pick up in the past couple of weeks. He might be a little rusty out of the gate, but when fully healthy, he's a force to be reckoned with.
---End of Update---
UPDATE: Thursday, Oct. 4 at 9:57 a.m. ET by Jessica Isner
It's official: Rashard Mendenhall has been cleared to play against the Eagles on Sunday, according to Mike Bires of TimesOnline.com.
Here's hoping that his return can spark an offense that hasn't been stellar through the first few weeks of the season, according to Bires. Last season, Mendenhall accumulated 1,082 yards and nine touchdowns for the Steelers.
---END OF UPDATE---
UPDATE: Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 3:45 p.m. ET by Tim Keeney
All reports indicate Rashard Mendenhall will return against the Philadelphia Eagles, but he wasn't necessarily emphatic about his comeback (via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette):
Mendenhall said he "believes" he will play against the Eagles.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) October 3, 2012
Nonetheless, you should expect to see Mendenhall on the field come Sunday afternoon.
---End of update---
UPDATED: Tuesday, October 2 at 5:32 p.m. ET by Richard Langford
The cavalry is coming to the rescue of the Steelers—they are about to get a lot of star power back on the field. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the news. Bouchette:
Coach Mike Tomlin said today that he is optimistic that Harrison and Polamalu will play on defense together for the first time since their playoff loss in Denver last January. And he implied that Mendenhall will play for the first time since his ACL was torn Jan. 1 in the 2011 regular season finale at Cleveland.
Keep a close eye on Mendenhall in this one. The Steelers running game is struggling. We'll see if Mendenhall can spark it to life.
---End of update---
From Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Rashard Mendenhall is expected to make his debut Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field.
Mendenhall, who posted two 1,000-yard rushing seasons in the past three years, missed the first three games of the regular season while recovering from mid-January ACL surgery, and, without him, the Steelers running game has struggled.
"Struggled" is an understatement.
After three games, the team has rushed for just 195 yards at a measly 2.9 yards per carry. Neither Isaac Redman (32 carries for 72 yards) nor Jonathan Dwyer (24 carries for 70 yards) has been particularly impressive.
Not surprisingly, the team has therefore turned to Ben Roethlisberger and the passing attack, and Big Ben has been excellent to start the season. The same cannot be said for the Steelers themselves, however, who went into the bye week a disappointing 1-2.
Mendenhall should help to bring some balance to the offense. In the past three years, he's rushed for 3,309 yards and 29 touchdowns, and has been one of the NFL's steadiest producers at the running back position.
For fantasy owners looking to insert him back into a starting spot, however, next week probably isn't the right time to do it. For one, we don't know how may snaps or carries Mendenhall will see in his return. With Redman and Dwyer available, the Steelers have no need to overwork him in his return.
For another, the Eagles are giving up just 91.5 yards per game (12th in the NFL) and have allowed just one rushing touchdown in four games. Philly is no longer a team you can beat just by attacking between the tackles with a downhill running game. The Eagles have played very well defensively this season.
Still, Mendenhall should bring a new dimension to the running game. If he does happen to be available on the waiver wire, for whatever reason, you should snatch him up and stash him for one week. If he's fully recovered, he'll be an excellent fantasy asset soon enough.
And for Pittsburgh, he'll hopefully be the cure for an ailing running game. The Steelers just don't quite seem like the Steelers if they can't pound the rock.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are on point like Geno Smith.