The Steelers have started the clock on NT Casey Hampton and RB Rashard Mendenhall, activating them from the PUP list.
The injured stars were both expected to miss major time, perhaps the entire preseason and into the regular season, with torn ACL injuries. Mendenhall injured his knee against the Browns in Week 17. Hampton suffered his injury in the offseason while working out.
The possibility existed that one or both would open the season on the PUP list, which would have kept them from being available until the seventh week of the regular season.
No longer — Mendenhall and Hampton return to action right when other Steelers players are limping off the field. OLB James Harrison had arthroscopic knee surgery, leaving the start of his season in question, and RB Isaac Redman is having an MRI on his groin.
Rookie ORT Mike Adams, who could start this season, and OLT Max Starks are getting healthier and could return to play soon. But OLB Jason Worilds — who would have been first in line to replace Harrison — remains out with a mystery wrist injury, and his status is unknown.
Mendenhall and Hampton likely won’t play Sunday night against the Colts, but their return to action is unquestionably a positive and unexpected development. They could be allowed to return to the field soon and perhaps play when starters typically get extended reps in the third preseason game, when the Steelers play the Bills in Buffalo on Saturday, Aug. 25.
Mendenhall is entering his fifth season with the Steelers, amassing 3,367 rushing yards in first four years. A five-time Pro Bowler, Hampton is entering his 12th season with the team.
The way we see it
This is a huge, unexpected development for the Steelers, who have gotten off to a slow start in camp and the preseason. This brings a little sunshine, and the reports that WR Mike Wallace might be close to returning to the team also would bring positive news. Hampton's return is significant because even at 35, he appears the better option to Steve McClendon or rookie Alameda Ta'amu at nose tackle. Mendenhall joins a backfield that is banged up, and like Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, his recovery from ACL surgery has been remarkable to this point.