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Steelers expect to have all injured players back Sunday

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Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 1:52 p.m.

For the first time this season, the Steelers' defense will be a full strength when they host the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on Sunday. And running back Rashard Mendenhall is scheduled to return in hopes of igniting a stalled ground game.

All three players practiced on Friday in preparation for an important clash with the 3-1 Eagles. They are listed as probable along with offensive tackles Marcus Gilbert.

The Steelers, off to a 1-2 start for the first time since 2009, are hoping the return of Harrison (knee), Polamalu (calf) and Mendenhall (knee) can keep them from slipping to 1-3 and farther behind AFC North rivals Baltimore (3-1)and Cincinnati (3-1).

Safety Ryan Clark said the Steelers are without excuses.

“There's always room for excuses,” Polamalu joked. “We know the two defeats we have, it's come down to one-on-one matchups. There were breakdowns here and there. It's not that I would have made a play that (safety) Ryan Mundy couldn't, and I'm sure James would say the same about (linebacker) Chris Carter.”

“There's always a perfect time to come back from injuries and it's nice to have guys healthy. “We'll see how we perform. James, Rashard and I have lost a lot of games (to injuries), but it's going to come down to how well we execute.”

Defensively, the Steelers will face a Philadelphia team that continuous to gather momentum. The Eagles are likely to challenge Harrison and Polamalu with an increasingly confident run game.

“I'm going to play as much as I'm allowed,” said Harrison, who probably will split time with Carter. “I made it through the week without much of a problem.”

The Steelers seemingly are in need of confidence booster after Oakland moved the ball almost effortlessly in the fourth quarter of a 34-31 loss two weeks ago.

“We know what Troy and James bring,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “You don't know whether they are going to rush or drop back in coverage. It's like mind games, so (Philadelphia) has to account for them.

“All everyone remembers is the loss we had before the bye week and that we gave up a big run (a 64-yard to Oakland's Darren McFadden). We have an opportunity to get two of key guys back, so we have something to be excited about.”

“They are the core veterans of our team, and we know what they bring to the table,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “It's a confidence booster to be complete as a defense.”

The run game, too, hopes to pick up the pace with Mendenhall back in the lineup. The fifth-year running back hasn't carried the ball since suffering a torn ACL in Cleveland on Jan. 1.

Mendenhall said he isn't sure how much work he'll get. But he's likely to share duties with Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. Redman and Dwyer averaged only 2.53 yards per carry during Mendenhall's absence.

“I'm not sure what we have plan, but the game will tell it's own tale,” Mendenhall said. “We'll going to be ready to play on Sunday. It's going to be a tough game line any other week.”

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