Steelers to face Eagles at full strength
For the first time this season, the Steelers will be at full strength defensively 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.
Mendenhall, linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu practiced Friday and are listed as probable, along with offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert.
The Steelers, 1-2 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).
“We know the two defeats we have, it's come down to one-on-one matchups,” Polamalu said. “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.”
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,” Harrison said. “I made it through the week without much of a problem.”
The Steelers seemingly are in need of confidence boost after Oakland moved the ball almost effortlessly in the fourth quarter of the Raiders' 34-31 win 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 Darren McFadden). We have an opportunity to get two of our key guys back, so we have something to be excited about.”
The run game, too, hopes to pick up the pace with Mendenhall 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 2.5 yards per carry during Mendenhall's absence.
“I'm not sure what we have planned, but the game will tell it's own tale,” Mendenhall said.
What a rush
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked nine times this season. The Eagles alone sacked him nine times the last time the teams played, a 15-6 Eagles win in 2008.
The Steelers have not faced a pass rush as fierce as Philadelphia's. Defensive end Trent Cole, third all-time in sacks (69.5) behind late Hall of Famer Reggie White (124), will draw plenty attention. Cole is likely to be double-teamed, particularly in obvious passing situations.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is excited about his return to Heinz Field. He has purchased “tons of tickets” for family, friends and his former Pitt professors.
“I am a Philadelphia Eagle, and this is a big game for the fans,” he said. “I hope the fans react well, but I won't be mad if they don't.”
The Steelers are first in third-down conversion (56.3 percent) and time of possession (35:59). But they'll be tested this week: The Eagles are third in third-down defense.
“I think it's a great challenge for our defense,” said Eagles coach Andy Reid. “If you play a team that is as good as the Steelers are on third downs, you have to step your game up. That's what this game is all about.”
Let it Rain(ey)
Chris Rainey thought he would have touched the ball far more than he has this season.
The rookie running back has 15 touches: six carries, four catches, four kickoff returns and one punt return. He is sometimes frustrated, but patient.
“We have to get him into the flow of the offense at some point when everybody is comfortable,” said offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bryant suspension opens doors for other Steelers’ receivers
- Steelers notebook: LB Harrison believes Goodell will prevail in Brady ruling
- Steelers trade 6th-round pick for Jaguars kicker Scobee
- Steelers WR Bryant’s suspension upheld
- RB Williams believes he’s making seamless transition to Steelers
- Rossi: Beleaguered Steelers need MVP from Big Ben
- Big plays cost Steelers defense in preseason loss at Bills
- QB Vick hits ground running in debut
- Starkey: Steelers stopping themselves with suspensions
- Healthy, confident Steelers LB Shazier ready for full speed ahead