The Pittsburgh Steelers have used this offseason to groom running back Isaac Redman for the starting role. It's not how they planned to enter the year, but with Rashard Mendenhall still on the mend, Redman's promotion is quickly becoming a reality.
Mendenhall tore his anterior cruciate ligament in last year's regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert all but admitted he won't be back anytime soon.
"My guess is they'll open the season on PUP (the physically unable to perform list)," Colbert told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Friday.
Kicking off 2012 on the PUP means Mendenhall would be unavailable to the Steelers until after the sixth game of the season. Colbert hinted at the same fate for nose tackle Casey Hampton, recovering from a serious knee injury. Both players are in the final year of their contracts with the team.
For many years, that's been true. Only a handful of teams in the league have shown the ability to weather roster turnover and injuries with the skill of Pittsburgh. Mendenhall has posted three straight 1,000-yard seasons, and Redman will be asked to do the same in Todd Haley's run-oriented attack. Mendenhall is often forgotten in debates about football's top young backs. He shouldn't be. Mendenhall's absence would be costly, but we expect Redman to fill the gap, because that's what this team does.