The Pittsburgh Steelers have used a veritable carousel of running backs this season, but as the team prepares for the second half of their season the running back that most didn't expect would even be ready to play at this point will apparently get his starting job back as soon as he's healthy.
Fourth-year pro Rashard Mendenhall, who tore his ACL late last season and then returned way ahead of schedule, only to be sidelined again by an Achilles injury, will regain his job as the starting running back for the Steelers as soon as he's able, according to what position coach Kirby Wilson told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Rashard has always been our lead dog and our top runner...Rashard is the complete package—power, speed, explosiveness. He is the guy who can take a 10-yard run and make people miss and get 20 more. We think Jonathan [Dwyer] has things that he is great at. Isaac [Redman] has some things that he is great at. But Rashard is the complete package. Rashard has proved that he can do it over the long haul.
Mendenhall is expected to be a week or so away from returning, but that return could finally bring a measure of fantasy clarity to a backfield situation that has been as murky as any in the NFL this year.
That hasn't been by design. Injuries to all three backs have forced starts from Redman, Dwyer, and Mendenhall, and each back has been effective at times this season, with Redman topping 100 yards on the ground with a score in the win over the New York Giants last week.
It's Redman who will likely draw the start again Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, although Dwyer, who had back-to-back 100-yard games in his last two starts before being felled by a quadriceps injury, will probably get quite a few touches now that he's healthy enough to play.
In fact, given the effectiveness that each back has displayed at some point this season, head coach Mike Tomlin has indicated that the team may well employ something of a "hot-hand" approach, a sentiment echoed by Wilson:
Whoever is producing, give it to them again...They are aware of whoever is producing is going to get the most opportunities. On any given Sunday, you can have the next guy in there.
However, it appears that once he's fully recuperated, Mendenhall will get the first crack at heating up, which makes the former Illinois standout a very interesting stretch-run target if by chance he's available in your fantasy football league.