PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04: Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tries to get around the tackle of Reggie Nelson #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on December 4, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Not long after we posted updates about the Steelers backfield being depleted by an injured Isaac Redman, the Steelers surprisingly activated running back Rashard Mendenhall from the physically-unable-to-perform list (PUP). Along with Mendenhall, the Steelers also activated veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton. Both players each had ACL surgery last January.
As Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the Steelers apparently felt that it was time to activate Mendenhall in order for him to take the next step in his recovery. By remaining on PUP, Mendenhall would need to wait at least six weeks into the regular season before seeing any playing time. Whilte it sounds like Mendenhall will not be ready to take the field in September, trainers feel he could be ready to contribute sometime in October. Mendenhall is now allowed to work out and practice with the team, and Steelers general manager believes this will enable the team to really determine Mendenhall's next step in recovery.
"We will know more once he starts this. Practicing and doing football work with his teammates, he'll have a better idea where he is, and we'll have a better idea where he is."
The same applies to Casey Hampton, a five-time Pro Bowler entering his 12th season in the NFL, but Mendenhall's rehabilitation may take more time considering the physical demands at the running back position.
Colbert said he, too, was surprised by Mendenhall's progress. He said earlier he felt Hampton would be ready, but with all the speed and cutting required of a running back it would take Mendenhall longer.
With Mendenhall off the PUP, there's a good chance the Bengals may face him in week 7 at Paul Brown Stadium. In 2011, Mendenhall rushed for a total of 104 yards and 4 touchdowns in two games against the Bengals.