By Matt Pawlikowski
On Tuesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was optimistic both James Harrison and Troy Polamalu–who has been nursing an injured calf–would return on Sunday.
“We will watch these guys as we proceed throughout the week,’ Tomlin said. “All guys have performed well and were able to get through practice and we’re optimistic that they’re going to be full participants.”
So far, so good. That’s the word when it comes to both of them taking the field Sunday against the Eagles.
Harrison, who has been the biggest question mark and yet to play a down in the 2012 season, practiced Thursday for a second consecutive day with no apparent setbacks to his knee. It’s the first time this season he has been able to do so. Without Harrison in the lineup, the Steelers have had trouble pressuring the opposing quarterbacks.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau says that having the two back will be a big boost for the unit, but also cautioned that they may not play the entire game.
“I’m looking forward to having our defense back together,” Lebeau said. “They might not be able to play the whole game, but we’ll get a lot of quality snaps from them. They both looked real well in the practices the last few days, and I’m anxious to see them play.”
Rashard Mendenhall was also a full go at practice on Thursday, meaning for the first time this season the Steelers run game could have a potent weapon out of the back field. Mendenahll has not played since the Browns game last January.
“You never want to push too hard and have a setback,” Mendenhall said. “ I’ve just tried to take solid steps every step along the way. That’s always been my mindset. It’s always been the next step.”
While the Steelers desperately need something to spark the run game, which has averaged 2.6 yards per game, Mendenhall isn’t ready to make any predictions.
“I’m just going to put my best foot forward and see what happens,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said that having Mendenhall back will add a different dimension to the unit, which although has lacked a run attack, has been very successful utilizing the run alternative.
“If he is able to get back and keep improving like everyone else, then you have another difference maker on the field,” Haley said. “That’s not a slight to any of the guys here. I like our running back group. I like it better with him there. I think that is just common sense.”
The bye week–although early–seems to have come at the perfect time this season, as every Steeler has practiced this week, including Heath Miller and Marcus Gilbert.
Here is the Eaqles’ injury report for the week
Did not participate in practice:
LB Akeem Jordan (hamstring), DT Derek Landri (knee), G Danny Watkins (chest)
LB Akeem Jordan (hamstring)
LImited participation in practice:
DT Derek Landri (knee)
Full participation in practice:
S Colt Anderson (knee), T Demetress Bell (thumb), LB Jamar Chaney (knee), WR Riley Cooper (collarbone), LS Jon Dorenbos (ankle), T King Dunlap (hamstring), WR Damaris Johnson (foot), RB LeSean McCoy (knee)
S Colt Anderson (knee), WR Jason Avant (wrist), T Demetress Bell (thumb), LB Jamar Chaney (knee), WR Riley Cooper (collarbone), LS Jon Dorenbos (ankle), T King Dunlap (hamstring), WR Damaris Johnson (foot), LB Mychal Kendricks (calf), RB LeSean McCoy (knee), G Danny Watkins (chest)
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Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.