INDIANAPOLIS - The Steelers have already had a hand - make that two hands - in Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti's comeback from his third major knee injury.
Mauti disclosed at the NFL Scouting Combine that he is recovering from his third torn anterior cruciate ligament tear in five years and his second reconstructive left knee surgery. The operation was performed by James Bradley, the Steelers' orthopedist.
Before the combine, Mauti declined to reveal the exact nature of the injury that sidelined the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year during Penn State's next-to-last game of the season.
Mauti, the son of former NFL wide receiver Rich Mauti, went through a knee recovery grading process at the Combine, but he does not know the results.
"I'll find out over the next several months," he said.
A player whose leadership, character and intensity personified Penn State's on-field rebound from the Jerry Sandusky scandal and an 0-2 start to go 8-4 under first-year coach Bill O'Brien is certain what the injury will mean to his career.
"There's no doubt in my mind I'll be able to play at the same level again," Mauti said. "I think people understand that I've responded to an injury like this. Last year I was coming off an ACL, (and) I had an All-American season, so I've proven I can do that."
Mauti took a medical redshirt in 2009 after tearing his right ACL.
Mauti hopes that by attending the off-field sessions in Indianapolis - he is not close to being able to go through the on-field drills - he can help convince NFL teams he is worthy of being drafted.
Before the injury, Mauti was projected to go as high as the second round.
No doubt aware that NFL teams will be wary of devoting even a seventh-round pick to a player with a long history of bad injuries, Mauti wrote to all 32 NFL general managers emphasizing what playing in the league meant to him.
The letter must have had a positive effect; he's already gone through more than six hours' worth of personal interviews with teams.
"There's a lot of rumors flying around, a lot of misinformation. We just wanted them to hear from me, and where my mind is at about getting back," Mauti said. "I'm going to put myself in a situation to be healthy and play in the fall. I got some good feedback."
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was among those receiving the letter, and Mauti interviewed with linebackers coach Keith Butler.
Mauti credits O'Brien, previously the Patriots' offensive coordinator, for helping him understand life in the NFL.
"More than I could ever imagine. How things work in the NFL. How a brilliant pro offense works in different scenarios, different situations," Mauti said. "How to play good defense in different games, stuff like that, matchup issues. So much about football and just about organization and running a program."
Linebackers and defensive linemen took part in the weight lifting portion of the combine Sunday, but the injury prevented Mauti from participating.