Rashard Mendenhall: Realistic Fantasy Expectations for Steelers RB vs. Eagles

Ryan DavenportContributor IOctober 7, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 24:  Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against the St. Louis Rams during the game on December 24, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers won 27-0.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

For fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the wait is over. 

Star running back Rashard Mendenhall is finally ready to make his 2012 season debut in the Steelers' Week 5 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles

Now that Mendenhall is healthy, the only question that remains is what sort of impact he'll make in his first game in over nine months. 

The answer may not be as exciting as Mendenhall's fantasy owners might have hoped for. 

That's because, according to ESPN.com, the Steelers are expected to ease the 25-year-old back into the offense against the Eagles.

Though Mendenhall (knee) is expected to play Sunday against the Eagles, he isn't sure how much playing time he will see in that event, the Steelers' official site reports. "I'm not sure who we'll have playing," Mendenhall said of the Steelers' potential Week 5 RB workload distribution. "The game will tell us that and take care of itself. We're all prepared. Come game time, it will all unfold." 

Yes, the Steelers are likely tempering expectations, but the Eagles also aren't the ideal opponent for Mendenhall's first game since January. 

Even if Mendenhall is ultimately used as the Steelers' featured back against Philadelphia, the 3-1 Eagles have been allowing just over 90 yards a game on the ground, which doesn't bode well for Mendenhall's fantasy performance in his season debut. 

Mendenhall will undoubtedly still get the ball more than Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer, so it's reasonable to assume that the bruising back will run for at least 50-60 yards, but if he's sharing carries against a difficult defense, any more than 70 would be a pleasant surprise. 

He'll get back to being a viable No. 1 fantasy back in due time, but don't be surprised if it doesn't happen in Week 5.