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Steelers' Mendenhall ready to run in 2012

| Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 8:18 p.m.
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall runs during OTAs on the South Side May 23, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall runs during OTAs on May 23, 2012, on the South Side. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall runs during OTAs on the South Side May 23, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Rashard Mendenhall said he will play this season, and the Steelers running back didn't rule out doing so in theSept. 9 season opener in Denver.

“There's always the possibility,” Mendenhall said Wednesday. “I'll be back at some point. It's just a matter of what point that is.”

Mendenhall's future here has been murky, on several levels, since he tore the ACL in his right knee Jan. 1.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has said it usually takes a year to fully recover from that injury. And the Steelers have braced for the possibility that Mendenhall will spend the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Mendenhall is in the final year of his contract, but the Steelers' 2008 first-round pick plans on playing through whatever risk comes with returning this season. When asked if there is any chance he won't play in 2012, Mendenhall said, “I don't see that happening at all.”

Mendenhall, the Steelers' leading rusher the past three seasons, said he is still experiencing soreness and swelling in the knee he hurt in the Steelers' 2011 regular-season finale in Cleveland.

The 5-foot-10, 225-pounder didn't appear to be favoring it while running on the side during the Steelers' first two offseason practices, and Mendenhall said he has been cutting and doing other things that put him on track to return in 2012.

There is not a whole lot in the way of experience behind Mendenhall.

Third-year man Isaac Redman has shown promise, but he has made just two career starts. No other healthy running back on the roster has more than 25 career carries.

The Steelers are eager to see if Redman, who rushed for 213 yards in the final two games last season, is ready to handle an increased workload.

“Everybody here has confidence in Isaac,” Mendenhall said.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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