Mendenhall will miss the entire playoffs, thus eliminating the Steelers ability to have a balanced offense against some talented defenses.
Backup running back Isaac Redman is a capable rusher, but he has problems holding onto the football, as evidenced by his two lost fumbles against the Cleveland Browns in the season finale.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been battling an ankle injury over the last few weeks and did not play in Week 16. Big Ben has thrown two touchdown passes with four interceptions over the last four games.
In his most recent game against a playoff opponent, Roethlisberger threw three interceptions with no touchdown passes in a 20-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football.
Without Mendenhall, Big Ben will have to carry the offense, which will be a difficult challenge for him with an injured ankle. Roethlisberger throws on the run very well, but that will also be harder to do with a sore ankle.
The Steelers defense, like it has been in many years past, will be responsible for the team's chances of making the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh has the No. 1 ranked defense in football, and is also ranked No. 8 against the run and No. 1 against the pass. However, against teams like the New England Patriots, the Steelers would struggle to win because Tom Brady will score a ton of points. With an injured ankle, Roethlisberger wouldn't be able to match him.
Sure the New England pass defense is awful, but when you know the other team cannot run the ball well because their starter is out, it makes defending the pass easier.
Without Mendenhall, the Steelers can still beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, but against the elite AFC teams such as the Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, they won't survive.
Roethlisberger is a good quarterback, but he cannot be expected to carry the Steelers back to the Super Bowl without a reliable running back and an injured ankle.