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Rashard Mendenhall set for first contact practice

It's not uncommon in the NFL for a starting running back go down to injury only to have his reserve step into the spotlight and make a name for himself.

We're seeing this with the Buffalo Bills, for whom C.J. Spiller is mounting a handsome Wally Pipp campaign in Fred Jackson's stead.

The same cannot be said in the Steel City, where the Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled to find a suitable replacement for Rashard Mendenhall. According to, the Steelers are 30th in the NFL in both overall rushing yardage (141) and average yards per carry (2.6) through two weeks.

Fortunately, Mendenhall continues to make progress, now eight months removed from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Mendenhall will participate in contact practice for the first time this week.

"We'll thud him up a little bit the day we're allowed to carry our pads," Tomlin said Tuesday, referring to a practice in which players hit each other, but remain on their feet.

The Steelers are dealing with yet another backfield injury following Sunday's 27-10 win over the New York Jets. Jonathan Dwyer has landed on the injury list with turf toe. Tomlin said Dwyer is limited, but could still be available in Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.

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