The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


October 2, 2012

Steelers get healthy in time for Philadelphia

PITTSBURGH — Call it addition by omission.

As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin rattled off the status of injured players on Tuesday, three names were noticeably absent – Rashard Mendenhall, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.

It wasn’t an oversight by Tomlin. It’s just that he doesn’t think three of his team’s most vital contributors are hurt anymore. Barring a setback, Tomlin expects all three to be in uniform on Sunday when the Steelers (1-2) host Philadelphia (3-1).

“I think that’s a safe assessment,” Tomlin said.

The unusually emphatic endorsement by the typically cautious Tomlin is perhaps the closest thing to a sure thing for the Steelers, who are looking to avoid their first ever 1-3 start since Tomlin took over in 2007. Under Tomlin, the Steelers have started every season 6-2. They already have two losses. Ripping off the next five to keep that streak alive will be daunting.

Having a couple of former Defensive Players of the Year back won’t hurt. Harrison hasn’t played at all this season while nursing a lingering left knee problem. Polamalu missed the last two games with a strained right calf, while Mendenhall is at the very end of a lengthy rehab after tearing the ACL in his right knee on New Years Day.

“When we have those guys, we’ll appreciate it,” Tomlin said. “When we don’t have them, we’ll remain steadfast in our goals and our objectives.”

Even if they haven’t been met through the season’s first month.

While the offense has been remarkably consistent under new coordinator Todd Haley, the defense has looked toothless in the second half in losses to Denver and Oakland. The Broncos and Raiders had the ball a combined eight times in the second half against the Steelers and ended up scoring on seven possessions.

Polamalu and Harrison’s presence won’t hurt, but there’s no guarantee they will be a cure-all for a team in danger of losing serious ground to AFC North front-runners Baltimore and Cincinnati, both 3-1. Yet, the Steelers have been one of the most resilient teams in the NFL under Tomlin. Pittsburgh is one of only three teams to avoid back-to-back losses since the beginning of the 2010 season.

“There’s no panic in here,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “It’s still a marathon, but we need to get a win.”

A couple of defensive stops might be enough to get the job done. Getting some pressure on the quarterback might help. The Steelers have just five sacks through three games, which would put them on pace for less than 30 over the course of a season. Chris Carter and Jason Worilds have done little in that department while filling in for Harrison, allowing teams to focus their attention on stopping LaMarr Woodley coming from the right edge.

Pittsburgh hardly made Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer break a sweat as he threw three touchdowns in a

34-31 comeback victory on Sept. 23. Palmer led the Raiders to scores on all four of their second-half possessions, and he hit four straight passes on the drive that set up Sebastian Janikowski’s game-winning field goal.

The defensive veterans rallied around longtime coordinator Dick LeBeau last week, brushing off criticism that the Steelers had become too predictable. Safety Ryan Clark pointed out opponents’ familiarity with Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme didn’t matter because the Steelers simply outworked the guys across from them on the line of scrimmage. It’s a point Polamalu reiterated on Monday.

“We are not going to change,” Polamalu said. “It’s about how we execute and win our one-on-one matchups. If we don’t, it has nothing to do with the scheme of things. It’s just that we are underperforming.”

There are few players in the league who work more tenaciously than Harrison, who underwent a full workout last Tuesday but was not on the field when the team practiced on Wednesday. His left knee has been bothering him since minicamp to the extent he underwent a minor procedure on Aug. 15. He anticipated being ready for the season opener, but a month later is still waiting to take the field.

Harrison joked on Monday he’s more concerned about a charity fashion show the team is putting on Friday than making a guess on whether he’ll be available. Still, the sight of Harrison and Polamalu on the field Monday was enough to pump up cornerback Ike Taylor.

“You’re talking about two defensive league MVPs,” Taylor said. “Enough said.”


Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Penguins 0419 Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0419 Brewers rally to clip Pirates

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon

    The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897.  Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.

    April 19, 2014

  • SRU vs UPJ baseball0418 1 UPJ takes one, drops second

    John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
    Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 17, 2014

AP Sports Video

Should the NFL get rid of the extra-point attempt after a touchdown?

     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow