Rashard Mendenhall took a spot among the first-team running backs on Labor Day in his first full Steelers' practice since tearing his ACL New Year's Day in Cleveland, but his return wasn't a cause for a holiday by itself. He still needs something of a preseason to prepare to play.
“It's been progressing. Feels good, felt normal. I was able to cut, no hesitation. But I just take it one day at a time and just try to build on that,” Mendenhall said Monday, still likely weeks away from playing. “I was never really on a timetable. I'm just kind of working through every day. I've been able to do what I was asked to do, and do it well.”
The Steelers head into Denver Sunday with Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and rookie Chris Rainey and/or Baron Batch as an alternative. Mendenhall doesn't rule out the possibility of playing in Denver, but it seems highly unlikely -- without any practice until Monday, let alone preseason game action.
Speed to Burnell: Mike Wallace shares a first name with his father, something Ben Roethlisberger reminded the assembled media Monday. By any name, Burnell Michael Wallace practiced for the first time since last January's playoff run-up and pronounced himself ready to play Sunday. Fellow Pro Bowl wideout Antonio Brown went so far as to say Wallace will start Sunday, with only a few days of practice. Roethlisberger offered that he expected Wallace to play “quite a bit.”
“It just feels good to be back with my teammates, be out there, learn the offense,” Wallace said. “I still have a way to go. Today, I had a pretty good grasp. I don't know how it'll be Wednesday. Terminology. . ., once I get that down, I'm good.”
Harrison testing knee: Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, after returning to the first-team defense following a preseason spent mostly on the PUP list, didn't sound overly positive. “It went OK,” said Harrison, who sat out the final defensive period. Mostly, though, Harrison took a wait-and-see stance -- if the surgically repaired knee swells from Monday, that isn't a good sign; if it doesn't swell, he will continue to practice and possibly start Sunday.
If Harrison doesn't play in Denver, backup Jason Worilds could take his place. Worilds likewise returned to work Monday after an offseason-long surgery and recovery from a wrist issue.
Captain oh captain: After 10 years of having anywhere from four to six team captains, the Steelers enter 2012 with just two -- and no special-teams captain for the first time since the mid-1990s, at minimum. Roethlisberger, who shared the offensive captaincy with the retired Hines Ward in 2008, 2009 and 2011 (skipping the season he started on the four-game suspension), enters the season as the solo captain for his first career time. Defensive end Brett Keisel became the defensive captain after an eight-year run by the departed James Farrior.
Follow Chuck Finder on Twitter for real-time updates from Steelers training camp @CBSNFLPit.