At least two Steelers players believe Rashard Mendenhall should start at running back when his injured Achilles heals ... and they are the other two backs who have started in his absence.
Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman said they believe Mendenhall should start when he is healthy because he has been No. 1 through the years and has done nothing to change that. This, even though Dwyer became the first back in four years to string together consecutive 100-yard games rushing with a chance for a third (previously done by Willie Parker in 2007) Sunday against the New York Giants.
"I mean, Rac is the guy," said Dwyer, referring to Mendenhall by his nickname. "Rac has been here for years, and they drafted him in the first round to be a starter. That's his room and we complement him."
Mendenhall missed the first three games while recovering from January ACL surgery, with Redman starting all three. Mendenhall returned to start against Philadelphia and played well, with 68 yards rushing on 13 carries and 33 yards on three receptions, one a touchdown. His Achilles was injured in the next game, and he hasn't played since.
He returned to a limited practice Wednesday, and it's possible he will miss his sixth game. Redman returned to a full practice after he, too, missed the previous game with a sprained ankle.
Dwyer, who started the past two games, missed practice Wednesday with a tight thigh that forced him out of a game Sunday against Washington. He's expected to return today.
"I don't really feel like it matters who starts," Redman said. "When all three of us are healthy, we're all capable of being in the game and contributing."
It may ultimately matter concerning who will start in 2013. All three are in the final season of their contracts. Mendenhall, drafted in the first round in 2008, will become an unrestricted free agent. The two others will be restricted free agents.
None seems too concerned about that at the moment. Dwyer said he would like to play against the Giants because "of course you feel the momentum and try to keep it going and the rhythm going.
"I just want to play in general, it's not even about all the yards and all that, I just want to keep playing."
Once ranked No. 31 in the league in rushing yards per game, the Steelers have climbed to 21.
"I just think it's that time of year where you're starting to see the fruits of your labor," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We're starting to jell and maybe our personality is revealing itself. Obviously, this challenge in front of us this week is going to be a big component of that and we've got to keep the ball rolling in a positive manner."
The Giants defense ranks 19th in rushing yards allowed per game (113), 28th in average rush permitted (4.6).
The Steelers kept rookie defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu on their 53-man roster despite his arrest after fleeing from police and the 15 charges he faces as a result.
The team suspended Ta'amu, their fourth-round draft choice this year, for two games after his Oct. 14 arrest on the South Side. They reinstated him Monday and had until 4 p.m. Wednesday to make a move when his roster exemption expired.
They released safety Damon Cromartie-Smith, who was signed Saturday from the practice squad.
Ta'amu, speaking to reporters for the first time since his arrest, said today that it was difficult to tell his family about what he had done.
"I was embarrassed to call my family," Ta'amu said after his first practice back with the team. "It was just out of my character to do something like that. I just promise you guys it won't ever happen again."
His preliminary hearing, originally scheduled for Oct. 23, has been moved to next Thursday. Ta'amu did not suit up for the first five games before his arrest and is not likely to do so anytime soon, barring injuries.
Ryan Clark said he has passed all of his concussion tests, including the one when he went through his first practice.
"I feel good," said Clark, who left the game Sunday in the first half with the head injury.
"I wasn't knocked out. I was never actually 'asleep' on the field. I venture to say I've been in that position before but [have] not been taken out of the game or not told anybody. I passed my test this morning that I had to take. Practice was another test. You have to make sure none of the symptoms linger from having a concussion."
Clark said it's his first concussion, although doctors initially suspected one after he hit Baltimore's Willis McGahee in the AFC championship after the 2008 season, "But I took the test the next day and I was smarter after that hit than I was on my baseline."
Clark will have to pass a final test Friday or Saturday to be cleared to play Sunday.
• Willie Colon's family in his native Bronx, N.Y., escaped the wrath of Hurricane Sandy by heading for higher ground -- in Pittsburgh. His wife, sister and other family members came for the game Sunday against Washington and stayed. Colon said his family's homes were not damaged.
"A couple buildings went down, but for the most part, people seem to be functioning. It wasn't Katrina-like. I'm just glad my family is safe."
• Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders received a FedEx letter ordering him to appear at NFL headquarters in New York at some point for a meeting to talk about his leg "cramp" Oct. 21 in Cincinnati. "I don't know the exact date right now but soon," Sanders said.
NBC-TV pointed out that it seemed as though Sanders faked a cramp late in the fourth quarter to stop the clock so the Steelers would not have to call a timeout. He missed one play.
"We'll talk about it when we get to New York," said Sanders, declining to discuss his brief injury.
• Linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Stevenson Sylvester also did not practice, along with two players Tomlin has ruled out for Sunday, Troy Polamalu and Marcus Gilbert.
ON THE WEB
• Look for the midweek Steelers Report video with Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac as they look ahead to a game Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants at
First Published November 1, 2012 4:00 AM