The Pittsburgh Steelers have help coming to turnaround the slow start to their season. James Harrison, who has not played all season because of a bad left knee, and Troy Polamalu, who has been out the last two games with a strained left calf, expect to return to action Sunday against Philadelphia.
Coach Mike Tomlin finally left off the two former defensive players of the year off his list of players who would not play on Sunday.
Also, running back Rashard Mendenhall, recovering from a torn ACL, is close to making his way back onto the field.
”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.”
While the offense has been remarkably consistent under new coordinator Todd Haley, even without Mendenhall, the defense has been subpar in the second half of losses to Denver and Oakland. The Broncos and Raiders had the ball a combined eight times in the second half against the Steelers and scored on seven possessions.
Polamalu and Harrison’s presence surely will help.
”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. Youngsters 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.
”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.”
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.”