PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Don’t ask head coach Mike Tomlin to lean on the injury bug as a crutch following a 31-19 season-opening loss in Denver Sunday night.
“The reality is that we didn’t play well enough post-snap,” Tomlin explained at his weekly press conference on the South Side Tuesday. “Forget about whether or not [the Broncos] huddle between plays, we’ve got full control over how we play once the ball is snapped, and it wasn’t up to snuff in many instances.”
Having said that, the Steelers may improve defensively before a single snap is taken this Sunday, when the New York Jets come to Heinz Field.
Tomlin said he is hopeful four-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison will finally be healthy enough to return to action Sunday after an Aug. 15 surgery addressed an irritation in his left knee that became problematic at the very end of the 2011 season. Harrison missed training camp and the entire preseason.
The rest of the linebacking corps, particularly Larry Foote (eight tackles in Week 1) and Harrison’s backup, Jason Worilds, did some good things early, but the Steelers did not generate much of a pass rush late in the game against new Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who threw for two critical second-half scores.
According to Tomlin, Harrison will run in practice on Wednesday, and the rest of the prep week will determine his status for Sunday.
Fellow All-Pro Troy Polamalu will also be limited in practice this week, said Tomlin. KDKA-TV’s Jory Rand, who was with the team in Denver, originally reported Polamalu left Mile High Stadium with a pronounced limp, but Tomlin does not expect what has been deemed a right calf strain to keep him from Sunday’s game.
The chemistry between safeties Polamalu and Ryan Clark is said to be an integral part of whatever success the Steelers have enjoyed and will continue to on defense, so conventional wisdom points to Clark’s absence last Sunday due to a sickle cell trait hurting the secondary.
“That remains to be seen and we’re not going to assume anything. Obviously, those guys are capable of helping us,” Tomlin said of Harrison and Clark. “They’re quality veteran players. They know how to play and, specifically in Ryan’s case, not only his play but his communication and leadership.
“What we are going to do is focus on the healthy guys and get them prepared to play and, ultimately, expect them to play on the acceptable level.”
Kickoff between the Steelers and Jets is set for 4:25 Sunday afternoon on KDKA-TV, with CBS Sports’ Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call.
(Will Graves of the Associated Press contributed to this report.)