Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday during his press conference that the door is open for running back Rashard Mendenhall to play Sunday night in the opener against the Denver Broncos. While the likelihood of Mendenhall actually playing remains low, the Broncos coaching staff must still prepare for the former first round draft pick just in case, as he is in the believable time frame of making a return to the field after tearing his ACL in the season finale last year against the Cleveland Browns.
Mendenhall, who was removed from the PUP list back in the middle of August, has looked "incredible" in practice according to defensive end Brett Keisel. Perhaps Keisel and others are helping out with the gamesmanship, and if so, they are doing a good job.
It is conceivable that Mendenhall could be listed as practicing fully on the injury report this week and ultimately listed as questionable on the Friday injury report. Depending on how the 7th player on the inactive list shakes out, Mendenhall might even dress for the game and warmup with the team prior to kickoff. This would give the appearance that he still might play right up until kickoff.
While I am of the belief that we are still a few weeks away from Mendenhall actually playing in a game, I also thought the running back would start the season on the Reserve PUP list. When you throw in the fact that Isaac Redman is dinged up right now with an ankle injury and Jonathan Dwyer has looked just short of awesome during the preseason, the Broncos are having to prepare for all five Steeler running backs right now and hat can\'t be fun for new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio heading into the first game of a new season with his new team.