Steelers starting running back Rashard Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL in week 17 of last season. The injury hurt the back’s chances at his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. Mendenhall finished with 928 yards in 2011.

His chances of returning to 1,000 rushing yards this season are also dwindling as Pittsburgh’s GM Kevin Colbert guesses Mendenhall will start the season off on the PUP list according to RotoWorld. That would keep Mendenhall out of the first six games of the season.

But Pittsburgh has confidence in Isaac Redman, Mendenhall’s backup, who started last year’s playoff game against Denver. Redman has played in every game the last two seasons and has rushed for a respectable 726 yards as a backup.

Some Steeler experts actually believe Redman could be a huge surprise and play better than Mendenhall did last season. Pittsburgh threw the ball a lot more in 2011 than they did the previous year, but Mendenhall ran too much to his left and right trying to dodge defenders rather than running through them.

Redman looks much more like a “Jerome Bettis” type back and even if he only gets 15 carries in the new Ben Roethlisberger oriented offense, Redman will punish defenders which will endear him to Pittsburgh fans.

New offensive coordinator Todd Haley will, however, have to worry about Redman’s fumbling problem. Last season, he lost two fumbles in just 110 carries. But if Redman can correct that problem, he should carry the backfield for the first half of the season. Then when Mendenhall returns, the Steelers could have a deadly one-two punch.