Mike Tomlin still isn’t sure when injured defensive stars James Harrison or Troy Polamalu will be healthy enough to play.
The Steelers coach isn’t against amending one of his longtime rules either, if it suggests one or both of his perennial All-Pros will be on the field in Oakland on Sunday.
Harrison, who is recovering from right knee surgery, and Polamalu, who is dealing a strained right calf, will have informal workouts this week.
Tomlin hinted Tuesday that neither veteran would have to practice to face the Raiders (0-2). Traditionally Tomlin likes his players to get one day of training in during the week leading up to a game before letting them loose on Sunday.
He’s happy to make an exception, however, for 2 cornerstones of Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense.
”I handle all of those circumstances really on a case-by-case basis,” Tomlin announced, ”with the knowledge that the younger you are, the more inexperienced you are, the more practices are necessary before I consider utilizing you.”
Meaning the well-established Harrison or Polamalu might not need to see the practice field. Harrison hasn’t played since a playoff loss in Denver 9 months ago, while Polamalu’s calf failed to respond quickly to treatment last week after sustaining the injury in a season-opening loss to the Broncos. Vegas odds
The duo was barely required in a 27-10 romp over the New York Jets on Sunday. The Steelers (1-1) shut down N.Y in the second half, holding the Jets to just 91 yards over the final 2 quarters to win going away.
Tomlin insisted, however, his team was a long way from perfect. Pittsburgh tried hard to run the ball, finishing with just 66 yards on 28 carries. Through 2 weeks, the Steelers are ranked 30th in the league in rushing yards.
While he was pleased the Steelers were able to run effectively on a game-clinching 4th-quarter touchdown drive, Tomlin believes there’s more work to be done.
”That’s not what I’m looking for,” he revealed. ”I’m actually looking for better than that.”
Help could come in Oakland. RB Rashard Mendenhall is inching closer to returning after Jan surgery to repair a ripped ACL in his right knee. Mendenhall has practiced in each of the last 2 weeks and could see an even heavier workload in the following couple of days.
”Maybe we may bump him around a little more in practice this week,” Tomlin asserted. ”He has done a nice job of running and cutting at full speed. Now, let’s see whether he’ll play a little football.”
The Steelers may need Mendenhall sooner, not later now that backup Jonathan Dwyer is dealing with turf toe. Dwyer has been a nice surprise through 2 games, providing what little spark the running game saw and turning out to be nimble catching passes out of the backfield.
Other injured players that Tomlin mentioned this week are right T Marcus Gilbert ( right groin strain ), TE Heath Miller (rib cartilage separation) and LB Stevenson Sylvester (knee).