Mike Tomlin “thinks” Pittsburgh Steelers star defensive players Troy Polamalu and James Harrison will play next week against the Philadelphia Eagles, per Ed Bouchette. The great news just keeps pouring in for the Steelers, as running back Rashard Mendenhall is also expected to play in Week 5 to make his season debut after suffering an ACL tear nine months ago.
Polamalu has been suffering from a calf injury and was only able to play in Week 1 against the New York Jets. The star strong safety was missed as the team’s key veteran leader, and the Steelers look ready now that they will likely be getting three of their best players after the bye week. The defense has suffered without both Polamalu and Harrison.
Jason Worilds and Chris Carter have been poor pass rushers during Harrison’s absence, so the Steelers pass rush is getting a much needed boost in addition to the overall boost in leadership and quality that the team will have. What often goes neglected is Harrison’s strong work in run defense, which will also be welcomed. Carter and Worilds are quality backups against the run, but neither of them have the profound impact that Harrison does.
Having Polamalu back will help solidify the Steelers pass defense, but Ryan Mundy, like the two linebackers who replaced Harrison, did a solid job in the interim. The Steelers now have an even better idea of how their backups can play, and all three of them are strong run stoppers. The upgrades provided by Harrison and Polamalu will be undoubtedly huge against the Eagles, especially since Harrison can swing the game with his pass rushing ability by putting Michael Vick under stress and taking advantage of the Eagles inconsistent situation at left tackle. Meanwhile, Polamalu will help keep Vick honest when he takes his shots downfield at Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson with Brent Celek also being a dangerous option at tight end.
It’s good to hear that Tomlin thinks both players will play against an Eagles team that is coming off of a win against the rival New York Giants. We’ll see if more concrete updates develop in the near future, but it’s tough not to get excited at the prospect of seeing both guys back in Week 5.
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