Rashard Mendenhall: Steelers RB Is Risky Fantasy Play vs. Ravens Even If Healthy

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 07:  Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the game on October 7, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Stashing injured players is a good strategy in the fantasy football world as long as you have the room on your bench, but that doesn't mean you must run out and start the first guy who gets healthy.

Rashard Mendenhall hasn't played since Week 6, and he only had six carries against the Titans in that game. Even if he does play Sunday night versus the Baltimore Ravens, he's going to be rusty.

According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette, Mendenhall is currently questionable:

Tomlin: Mendenhall questionable

— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) November 13, 2012

That obviously leaves the door wide open. It's still early in the week, so a lot could change, but it appears that Mendenhall is improving.

According to ESPN's Jamison Hensley, Mendenhall will be the starter when he's healthy. Pittsburgh believes in the talented ball-carrier, and it hasn't gotten tremendous production from the running backs who are currently carrying the load.

But, there's another problem. USA Today's Mike Garafolo notes that Ben Roethlisberger will be questionable for Sunday night's game after suffering a sprained shoulder versus the Kansas City Chiefs Monday night.

Even though he's listed as that, it's hard to believe that he will take the field. He's one of the NFL's toughest players, so he could, but it's difficult to tell how effective he would be either way.

If Big Ben cannot go, that will make life even more difficult on the Steelers' run game. Baltimore is allowing 132 yards per game on the ground, but being able to focus on just one dimension of Pittsburgh's offense will make a difference.

Do you really think the Ravens will worry about Byron Leftwich beating them? Of course they won't. If Roethlisberger can't go, and Mendenhall does, every ounce of Baltimore's attention will be placed on the backfield.

Mendenhall may feel good, but he's not necessarily ready to play with all eyes on him. The Ravens, despite their struggles, will bring their best effort against their hated AFC North rival. That means harder hits, more contact and a higher potential for another injury.

Keep an eye on Mendenhall's status throughout the week, but be warned. He's far from a guarantee, and he shouldn't be played unless you're really in a pinch. Even if Roethlisberger is on the field, his value is minimal.

He's certainly better than any waiver-wire find you're going to find this time of year, but a healthy Mendenhall still carries a ton of risk as a fantasy starter at this point.