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Harrison's status remains up in air

| Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, 8:18 p.m.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison hasn't played this season while recovering from knee surgery. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

James Harrison knows how badly the Steelers need him. These numbers tell him: Only five sacks in three games, only three turnovers forced.

The Steelers' consistently top-ranked defense hasn't been the same without its best pass rusher and havoc creator, and nobody is more frustrated than Harrison that he can't get on the field.

Harrison, a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker, went through a full practice Monday for only the third time since last season, but that's no guarantee he can play Sunday against the Eagles.

Harrison missed all of training camp with a left knee injury that required surgery in mid-August, and the knee has balked any time Harrison pushes it hard. He practiced last Tuesday, but his knee didn't respond, and he didn't even dress for practice Wednesday.

Until he gets through a full week of practice without his knee acting up, Harrison probably won't be able to play. He has missed eight games since last season due to injuries and a one-game suspension.

“It's just something you've got to deal with,” Harrison said. “The constant questions, of course, nags and irks you. So you get to a point where you've got to deal with it. And my way of dealing with it is (talking about his status only) on Fridays.”

Harrison even has the word “Fridays” written in big letters on the wall beside his locker.

Right now, the Steelers (1-2) would prefer to have Harrison on Sundays but, even if he isn't ready to go against the Eagles, they should get back safety Troy Polamalu (calf) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee).

Polamalu missed the last two games with the same injury that bothered him late last season, but he took part in the last three practices. He deferred all questions about his status to coach Mike Tomlin, who won't speak to reporters until Tuesday.

Despite having the NFL's second-worst rushing offense, the Steelers have been careful not to rush Mendenhall, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during their final regular-season game in Cleveland. They held him out of training camp and he didn't return to practice until Sept. 3.

“They've told me it is the same course they have taken, one day a time,” Mendenhall said. “I've been improving every day. I am going to continue to work and prepare for the game, like I have every week.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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