Rashard Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh Steelers are off to a quiet start this season. And things could be even more difficult this Sunday with Mendenhall nursing an injured hamstring, suffered in last week’s defeat to Houston.
The Steelers have yet to rule out Mendenhall for Sunday’s game against the Titans, but he did not practice on Wednesday.
Even if Mendenhall is able to return to the practice field on Thursday or Friday, he’s likely to be listed as questionable for Pittsburgh’s Week 5 matchup.
Mendenhall has rushed for only 173 yards and two touchdowns through the first four weeks of the season. Expectations were high for the fourth-year back entering the 2011 campaign. Mendenhall was expected to be a top 10 fantasy option at his position, after rushing for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010.
Despite the high expectations and 1,000-yard season last year, Mendenhall has yet to get on track. Although some blame rests with the running back, Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been ravaged by injuries. The line could get tackle Jonathan Scott and guard Doug Legursky back for Sunday’s game, but even with both players in the lineup, the Steelers still have a suspect offensive line. With all of the injuries and concerns up front, Mendenhall hasn't been able to find many rushing lanes the first four weeks of the season.
Although Mendenhall may play on Sunday, fantasy owners would be wise to keep him on the bench. The Titans rank eighth in the NFL against the run, allowing only 87.8 yards per game. Tennessee’s defense has also allowed only one rushing touchdown this season.
With hamstring injuries and the potential for aggravation on any carry, there is no guarantee Mendenhall will be able to carry a full workload against the Titans. Third-down back Mewelde Moore is expected to miss Sunday’s game due to a high ankle sprain.
With the injuries to Mendenhall and Moore, expect Isaac Redman to see an increase in carries on Sunday. Redman has 354 yards in two seasons with Pittsburgh, including 40 in last week’s loss to Houston.
Redman will likely see 15-20 carries on Sunday, even if Mendenhall is able to play. Expect the Steelers to use more of a committee approach this Sunday with all of the injuries in the backfield.
For fantasy owners looking for a bye week replacement or a fill-in for Mendenhall, Redman is still on the waiver wire in a good percentage of leagues.
Also, keep an eye on New England’s Stevan Ridley, Washington’s Ryan Torain and Cleveland’s Montario Hardesty.