Mark Kaboly | Tribune Review
A healthy, rested and motivated Rashard Mendenhall for the stretch run of “December football” very well could be something the Steelers are looking for from their injured running back.
Mendenhall is 6½ months removed from ACL surgery on his right knee. With the typical healing time for that injury for running backs being between nine and 10 months, Mendenhall will likely be ready to return some time during the second half of this season.
The Steelers placed Mendenhall on the preseason physically unable to perform list (PUP) at the start of training camp, and will transfer him to the regular season PUP list to start the season thus forcing him out at least the first six games of the regular season.
However, the Steelers have plenty of options after that to ensure Mendenhall is 100 percent healthy before he returns this year.
After the mandatory six-week period inactive period on anybody placed on the PUP list to start the season, teams have a three-week window in which to allow a player to begin practicing.
From the day the player begins practicing, teams have an additional three-week window in which to decide whether to activate the player to the 53-man roster. If either of those deadlines pass, the player must remain on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.
Translation: The Steelers don’t have rush Mendenhall back on the active roster after six weeks if they feel he needs more time. They can bring him back anytime between Oct. 15 and Nov. 26.
Running back Baron Batch had surgery in August last year and was 100 percent by the start of June – or 10 months after surgery.
If the Steelers take Mendenhall off the PUP list after Week 6, the healing time would be nine months. If they wait until they have to make a decision after Week 12, it would be 10½ months after his surgery.
There is no doubt that Mendenhall will come off the PUP list at some point of the season and play. Mendenhall, who is in the final year of his contract, needs to show the rest of the league that, at 25, that he can still be a featured back in the NFL.
The Steelers will allow Mendenhall to become an unrestricted free agent as the organization has made the decision to take a wait-and-see approach.
The Steelers won’t negotiate a deal with Mendenhall before the start of the season because of the uncertainty of his health.
Either way, the organization has big window in which to bring Mendenhall back.
A Mendenhall/Isaac Redman backfield split in December and into the playoffs just might be very beneficial and attractive to the Steelers.