ESPN is reporting that Pittsburgh Steelers franchise running back Rashard Mendenhall, who torn his ACL in their regular-season finale, could miss the entire 2012 season.
If Mendenhall does sit out the entire year, he will have missed 28 games in five years and will be a 26-year-old injury-prone free agent heading into the 2013 offseason.
While the Steelers could certainly attempt to re-sign Mendenhall at a discount at some point during the course of the next year, a running back with two major injuries in five years isn’t exactly someone you want to build around.
So could this be the end of the road for Mendenhall in Pittsburgh?
Even if they do intend to bring him back for 2013 and beyond, this could be the year to find his long-term replacement. The Steelers obviously need a short-term solution at running back, and they could use an insurance policy behind Mendenhall if he does return [and no, 27-year-old Isaac Redman is not the future].
The best fit for Pittsburgh’s offense in this year’s class is Boise State’s Doug Martin. Like Mendenhall, Martin is short in stature but is a tough, physical, between-the-tackles runner. As an added bonus, Martin would offer the Steelers an upgrade over Mendenhall in terms of his playmaking ability in the passing game.