On Monday, James Harrison was back at practice with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harrison had a setback following a surgical repair on his left knee, but is possibly ready to debut with the Steelers’ defense in Sunday’s week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The last time Harrison was able to play was in the wild card playoff loss to the Denver Broncos in January. Last Tuesday, Harrison practiced but did not return. Sources said that Harrison wasn’t quite ready to test the knee in a game. Harrison won’t make a full decision about his status until Friday, but said, “The constant questions…just nags and irks on you.” Harrison tweeted: “God willing, I will be playing Sunday against the eagles!”
It’s a good sign that Harrison is ready to get back in the game. While the Steelers’ defense is ranked sixth in the league, Pittsburgh only ranks 30th out of 32 teams with five sacks. During Harrison’s absence Jason Worilds and Chris Carter have seen more playing time, but have only been able to combine for a single sack.
LaMarr Woodley would love to have Harrison back, as would the entire defense. Woodley currently leads the team with two sacks, followed by fellow linebacker Larry Foote (one). The disruptive blitz packages that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau loves to throw at opponents has been less effective without Harrison and strong safety Troy Polamalu, who is expected to return on Sunday. “It always hurts when you aren’t winning,” said Woodley. “Even if we would have won the game on Sunday, we played bad defense…that is going to bug you regardless.”
The Steelers defense is ranked seventh overall in the NFL going into week 5 of the 2012 regular season. They are ranked fifth against the pass and 15th against the run. Normally the Steelers are very tough against the rush. Against the Oakland Raiders in week three, the Steelers watched their defense unable to finish the game.
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