Steelers News: Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace Updates
With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Spring OTA completed, two key offensive players remain question marks for the 2012 season. Rashard Mendenhall (RB) is about five months removed from tearing his ACL in the final game of 2011, while Mike Wallace (WR) did not join his teammates in their first look at new OC Todd Haley’s offense because of a contract dispute. The team workouts were voluntary—other notable no-shows were Ike Taylor (CB) and Brett Keisel (DE).
Mendenhall, as reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is confident he will be on the field for the Black and Gold in 2012 and wouldn’t rule out being ready to go for the season-opener in Denver on September 9. “They never said a time. With a knee, it can take anywhere from six to 12 months, so everybody’s time frame is different,” Mendenhall said. “I’ll be back at some point. It’s just a matter of what point that is.” He went on to say: “I just want to get back to 100 percent and, right now, I feel good about it.”
The 5’10” 225 lbs back indicated that he has been running and cutting, but still has swelling and soreness in his knee. While he seems to be ahead of schedule in rehabbing, the most likely scenario has the Steelers placing Mendenhall on the PUP list to begin 2012, which would give them until after week 6 to make a decision on his ability to play. Mendenhall is entering the final year of his contract and would do well for himself in the open market if he can show the league that he is fully recovered and effective at some point in 2012.
The depth at running back for the Steelers is unproven. The likely starter will be Isaac Redman, who won over fans last season with a hard running style. After that sits Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer has shown almost nothing in his first two seasons—151 yards on 25 carries, but 76 of those yards came on one play last season. Second-year man Baron Batch was hurt for his rookie campaign and rookie Chris Rainey round out the backfield.
The Mike Wallace situation still seems to be much-ado-about-nothing—as has the entire off-season with Wallace. No team showed serious interest in giving the Steelers a first-round pick to bring the restricted speedster into their locker room. The Steelers never intended on placing the Franchise tag on him (and the over $9 million payday that went with it). Now Wallace is looking at a restricted tender that pays $2.7 million in 2012 and he would be an unrestricted free agent for 2013. But Wallace is hoping for a long-term deal and sitting out of OTAs is a way of trying to leverage that. It seems that neither side is in a hurry to get a deal done, but both appear confident it will happen.
Mike Tomlin doesn’t seem concerned. “It’ll be over, a little bit of short-term misery,” Tomlin said. “It won’t be significant in the big scheme of things hopefully.” Fellow receiver Emmanuel Sanders said, “Mike is one of those guys that’s going to get in here and hit the ground running.”
So, while the media will try to make a big deal of Wallace’s absence, there does not seem to be any reason to panic. The most likely play here is that he will skip out on mini-camp (June 12-14) and sign his restricted tender on June 15 (the deadline to sign before the monetary value declines). Both sides will then enter training camp with the intention of getting a new deal done. Wallace need only look to teammates Woodley, Timmons and Polamalu, who all signed deals early during camp in 2011, to see that this is how the business works…and it will work for him.