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Steelers notebook: Defense healthy, finally fully staffed

| Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

For only the second time in a year, the Steelers' defense will be the Steelers' defense.

James Harrison has missed seven games to injury over the past two seasons, plus another for a suspension, and fellow outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was out for six games last season. If both play Sunday against the Eagles as expected, it will be only their second game together since an Oct. 2, 2011, game against Houston.

Add in Troy Polamalu's two games missed to a calf injury, and it's easy to see why the Steelers' defense had second-half letdowns in losses to the Broncos and Raiders.

“I think when you have (Harrison) and LaMarr in there together, it's more difficult for the offense to single on which side they want to protect,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said.

Ex-Pitt star Lewis waits

LeSean McCoy isn't the only former Pitt running back on the Eagles' roster. But while McCoy has developed into one of the NFL's best backs — he is No. 3 in rushing — Dion Lewis is waiting.

Lewis was McCoy's successor at Pitt but chose to leave after rushing for 2,860 yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons. He lasted until the fifth round in 2011 and has had trouble getting on the field.

Lewis hasn't been activated in four games this season, and all of his 102 yards rushing came last season. He averaged 21.6 on 21 kickoff returns in 2011.

Good time for bye

The Steelers are 4-1 after a bye under coach Mike Tomlin.

When they returned to practice, offensive coordinator Todd Haley could see the difference having healthy bodies makes.

“There is never a bad bye week,” he said. “You get out of it what you put into it. I thought our guys worked extremely hard.”

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

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