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Jamaal Charles will return for Chiefs against Steelers

Jamaal Charles will reportedly make his 2016 debut, despite being listed as questionable.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

A stacked backfield in Kansas City just got some more firepower. The Chiefs are expected to have Jamaal Charles active for this week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Adam Schefter.

The Sunday Night Football matchup will be the first action of the year for Charles, despite the fact that the Chiefs are still listing him as questionable for the game.

The three-time All-Pro is returning from an ACL tear in his right knee that cost him the final 11 games of the 2015 season. It’s not the first time he’s rehabbed from a traumatic leg injury; Charles tore the ACL in his left knee in Week 2 of the 2011 season.

If the past is any indication, he’ll bounce back strong. The veteran back ran for 1,509 yards and failed to show any ill effects from the injury in 2012. However, that was four years and one fewer ACL tear ago. At 29 years old, it’s fair to worry Charles’ advanced age (for a running back) could sap his effectiveness and make his return from this ACL tear a bit more difficult.

His role in Kansas City’s crowded tailback rotation is not clear yet. Charles was the team’s starter the past four seasons, but his role may have been usurped by Spencer Ware, who has shined in Charles’ absence. He ran for 403 yards and six touchdowns on only 72 carries as the team’s new lead back in 2015 and has added 202 yards and another touchdown on 41 carries so far this fall. Charcandrick West, who gives the team a lighter, quicker complement to Ware’s bulldozing style, gained 634 yards last season and is also a key component of the Chiefs’ running back platoon.

Ware and West both earned contract extensions last spring worth a maximum of $9.6 million depending on performance bonuses. With Charles approaching his 30th birthday and only under contract through 2017, it’s possible the four-time Pro Bowler takes a spot at the end of the rotation while Kansas City assesses its future at tailback.

Even if the Chiefs assign him a reduced workload, Charles will add a dynamic talent to one of the league’s brightest backfields. Ware and West helped propel the biggest comeback in Kansas City history when they combined for 222 total yards and a touchdown against San Diego in week one. Now they’ll get an accomplished veteran and former All-Pro to lighten their load as the Chiefs aim for their second consecutive playoff berth.