Tomlin Expects Star Trio Back for Eagles

Mike Tomlin

The injured superstar triumvirate of James Harrison, Rashard Mendenhall and Troy Polamalu practiced so well through the bye week, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't ...

... name any of them on his injury list Tuesday. Tomlin only mentioned at his weekly press conference that right tackle Marcus Gilbert had missed Monday's workout with a groin injury, but that Gilbert is expected back for Wednesday's practice.

So, Tomlin was asked, is it safe to assume that Harrison, Mendenhall and Polamalu will play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field?

"I think it's a safe assessment," said Tomlin. "We're optimistic they're going to be full participants."

At 1-2, the Steelers need the help, and those three, if healthy, should provide it.

Defensively, the Steelers have only 5 sacks this season, and only two teams have fewer. The Steelers also have forced only 3 turnovers, and only three teams have fewer.

Harrison and Polamalu figure to help those statistics, while Mendenhall, the running back who averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season, figures to help the league's worst rushing attack.

The Steelers are last in the league in both rushing yards per game and yards per carry. They averaged 2.9 per carry against Denver, 2.4 per carry against the New York Jets, and 2.7 per carry against Oakland.

Tomlin was asked if Mendenhall will help.

"He's our lead dog," Tomlin said. "Obviously he's capable."

Mendenhall spent the offseason and the first three games this season rehabilitating a torn ACL suffered in the final regular-season game last season.

Will he be 100 perecent for the Eagles?

"I'll let you know on Sunday," Tomlin said. "What time do we kick off? One? About 4:30 or so I'll let you know."

The Eagles rank 12th in run defense and allow 3.8 yards per carry. In a 24-23 preseason loss, the Steelers averaged 3.4 per carry against them.

"They disrupt the run in a vertical-like manner," Tomlin explained. "They're attacking and penetrating with their front. That cuts the field off and reduces running lanes and their linebackers and secondary men fill their running lanes. So, in concept, yes they do play the run on the way to the pass because they are vertical and they are attacking and penetrating, but they don't do it out of any disrespect to run or run-game integrity or gap integrity."

In spite their "attacking and penetrating" front, the Eagles have only 7 sacks this season, but are 3-1 after beating the New York Giants at home Sunday night.

The Steelers, of course, are coming off a bye week after falling to 1-2 with a loss in Oakland. Tomlin was asked if he had any problem with such an early bye.

"I don't care about the schedule," he said. "Whatever schedule they send, we'll play. I don't care. I haven't run across a bye week that didn't seem to come in a timely matter."

Considering the return of the Steelers' injured superstars, this bye week may have been particularly timely.

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