PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — At his weekly press conference on the South Side Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed his team is as healthy as it has been at any point during their disappointing 1-2 start.
Tomlin listed neither running back Rashard Mendenhall, nor Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu and/or linebacker James Harrison, among the inactives for Sunday’s game against the visiting Philadelphia Eagles. Barring further incident, this could give the Steelers a significant boost on both sides of the ball.
“All guys performed well, and we anticipate them being able to participate this weekend,” he said. “Based on how I looked at what we worked on yesterday, I think that’s a safe assessment.”
Entering Week 5, the Steelers rank 31st in the NFL with an average of 65.0 rushing yards per game (ironically, Oakland, which defeated Pittsburgh in Week 3, is ranked last) and have only scored on the ground once. Without Mendenhall, absent since an ACL injury in Week 17 of last season, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer have collectively led the running game, as offensive coordinator Todd Haley has tried to provide a spark by mixing in rookies Baron Batch and Chris Rainey.
Defensively they have allowed an average of 190 pass yards per game, third-best in the league, but the Steelers have also yielded 66 points in two road losses and rank toward the bottom of the NFL in sacks with five, leaving much to be desired as far as their pass rush is concerned.
That’s where Harrison’s presence might pay rich dividends, especially against an offense that features dual-threat athlete LeSean “Shady” McCoy, the former Pitt running back, and quarterback Michael Vick.
“We need to contain Mike Vick, by design or otherwise,” Tomlin said. “If he plays like he’s capable of playing, obviously James is an asset.”
Despite the fact Vick has struggled with turnovers, and that the Eagles, as a whole, have not had an easy time finding the end zone, Philadelphia (3-1) ranks among the NFL’s top five with an average of over 417 offensive yards per game.
Therefore, although Tomlin doesn’t think much of it, the timing of their bye week could loom large–in a good way–as the Steelers prepare for a potential crossroads game against the NFC East leaders that could help them close the early gap in the AFC North.
“Whatever schedule they give us, we’ll play…I’ve never had a bye week that I felt came at a bad time,” Tomlin said flatly.
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