With Mendenhall expected to miss the start of the season as he rehabs his torn ACL, the report contended that the Steelers were already acting as if he had played his last snap with the Steelers. The impetus for this feeling was a comment from general manager Kevin Colbert that it takes a full year for players to return from ACL injuries, which would move Mendenhall right into free agency after the 2012 season.
While they do expect some difficulties as Mendenhall makes his way back from injury, it does seem that report was a bit too aggressive. Colbert told Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Mendenhall still remains in their plans for the 2012 season.
“To clarify, what I said was I never think players coming off an ACL are 100 percent for a full year. It doesn’t mean they can’t play,” Colbert said. “At some point, we’ll have Rashard back. I’m confident of that.”
The Steelers certainly haven’t behaved in free agency like they don’t expect Mendenhall back next season. Isaac Redman might make it easy to live without Mendenhall as a starter, but Jonathan Dwyer and John Clay haven’t proven they are up to extended playing time to this point. The draft might bring other options, but, for now, there’s definitely a role for Mendenhall to fill if he’s healthy enough to fill it.