Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he anticipates nose tackle Casey Hampton and running back Rashard Mendenhall to miss the start of the regular season.
"My guess is they'll open the season on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform list)," Colbert said. “You’ve got to remember, both of those injuries happened late in the year.”
While this is no surprise because both had surgeries to repair torn ACLs in January, Hampton said last week that he was still targeting to play in the season opener.
If a player is placed on PUP to start training camp and remains there to start the season, he is required to miss the first six weeks. He is able to return during a three-week window of Weeks 7-10.
If Hampton and Mendenhall are both sidelined to begin the season, it will be tougher for the Steelers to replace Hampton. In the three years before Hampton joined the Steelers, their run defense ranked 13th, 26th and 12th. In the first two seasons with Hampton, Pittsburgh's run defense ranked No. 1. In fact, in 11 years with Hampton, the Steelers' run defense has ranked in the top three in the league nine times.
Pittsburgh is expected to replace Hampton with either backup Steve McLendon or rookie fourth-round pick Alameda Ta'amu. Both will get tested in those first five games which features running backs: Denver's Willis McGahee, New York Jets' Shonn Greene, Oakland's Darren McFadden, Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy and Tennessee's Chris Johnson.