PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 14: Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs by Zach Follet #49 of the Detroit Lions during the preseason game on August 14 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
It's been a long road for RB Rashard Mendenhall.
The eldest statesmen of the Knee Injuries Faction, he's had, technically, a week longer than LT Max Starks and NT Casey Hampton to recover from surgery to repair a torn ACL, but he needs the lateral movement and violence-absorbing change-of-direction mobility more than the two linemen do. Not to trivialize the road to recovery any of them have had to endure, but Mendenhall's was going to be the longest.
Judging by the reactions of a few defensive players in practice, Mendenhall is acing the early tests so far.
There probably still isn't a reason to think he could participate in Sunday's season-opener at Denver, but it could be a positive light shining through a period of time marred by the bleakness of injuries.
Steel City Insider publisher Jim Wexell quoted Brett Keisel, saying Mendenhall "looked incredible." Lawrence Timmons said "I thought he looked great. He was running well, finishing runs. I'm excited for him."
It's harder to tell what was seemingly less probable a month ago, in the early parts of training camp, whether Mendenhall would be looking "incredible" in practice, or, on Wednesday of preparation before the Steelers' first game, Mendenhall wouldn't be formally ruled out yet.
Add in an interesting twist, what was supposed to be RB Isaac Redman's coming out party, he's facing similar scrutiny as far as his availability Sunday. He's been nursing an ankle injury, and perhaps that's part of the reason they Steelers are hinting at Mendenhall possibly playing Sunday.
It's not as if Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has never played possum about injuries before.