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Print

Injuries force changes for Steelers

Posted Oct 4, 2011

It was a full house at the Mike Tomlin press conference on Tuesday afternoon with most in attendance, including ESPN, expecting to hear big news on the health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

But when Tomlin opened things up, everyone was blindsided by the news that linebacker James Harrison would be out for a “number of weeks” because of a fractured right orbital bone in his eye socket.

Harrison will undergo surgery on Wednesday and Tomlin said he will have more information about the injury after that.

“I know very little,” said Tomlin.  “I’ve been told that he broke his orbital bone and that it is going to require surgery (Wednesday) and they will have more details (Wednesday) on the rate of the recovery when he comes out of surgery. That’s about all I know. I’m sorry.

“Any time you are talking about the orbital bone, I think you need to get it fixed. Again, I am not doctor. And I don’t pretend to be one.”

While he might not have his medical degree Tomlin is trying to find a cure for what ails the Steelers. With Harrison out and fellow outside linebacker Jason Worilds doubtful with a left quad strain, Lawrence Timmons will start at outside linebacker and Larry Foote will start inside.

The injuries don’t stop there. Another position that took a hit last week against the Texans was running back. Rashard Mendenhall suffered a hamstring strain and should be limited in practice early in the week, while Mewelde Moore suffered a left ankle sprain and is questionable for Sunday.

“If Rashard’s injury does prevent him from playing, obviously that will mean that Isaac Redman will be the feature runner,” said Tomlin. “With both guys, at the very least they are nursing injuries at the early portion of the week, it is obvious that Redman is going to get the bulk of the action and we expect Jonathan Dwyer to ready himself to contribute as well, if the opportunity presents itself.”

Tomlin also indicated the Steelers could potentially add a running back this week, if for nothing else than to help in practice and to give the defense a look at Titans back Chris Johnson.

“For practice purposes we are going to look to at least bring in someone who is capable of being Chris Johnson-like in preparation this week,” said Tomlin. “There are two elements when you prepare for a football game, not only in terms of what we are doing with our running backs, obviously with the injuries we have to be thoughtful with how we prepare our guys and get these guys ready to play, but also to get ready to defend the run against a guy like Chris Johnson. When you have injuries, it’s interesting because we need guys capable of showing us what Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans are capable of doing in the run game. So that is where our interests are at this point.”

The news isn’t all bad, though. The offensive line should get a boost this week with the likely return of guard Doug Legursky and tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive end Brett Keisel is expected back after missing the last two games with a knee injury.

“We anticipate (Brett) being back,” said Tomlin. “His participation at the early portion of the week is going to guide us in that regard. But again, based on where he is and based on some of the run tests and stuff that he did the latter part of last week, we feel comfortable that he is going to be able to participate in this game.”

For those who were at the press conference for the Roethlisberger update, the news was good as well. Roethlisberger had x-rays and an MRI which showed there was no break, only a sprain that will likely limit him in practice early in the week.

“I think we are going to let the week speak to us,” said Tomlin. “We are going to be prudent in our approach. We are going to have a package of plays ready for Charlie Batch if that is the case. But based on the information that I have right now we anticipate him being limited in the early portions of this week and being able to be in form by the weekend.”

* * *

Last week Tomlin switched things around in practice, going in pads on Thursday instead of the normal Wednesday to allow some injured players an extra day to get back before putting on the pads.

This week things might change again. Under the new CBA teams are limited in how many padded practices they can have during the season, normally allowing one per week. But with some shuffling of starters at positions, and coming off a disappointing performance against the Texans, Tomlin might add a padded practice this week.

“We may practice multiple times in pads this week,” said Tomlin. “You are allowed to do that at least once during the regular season. There’s no time like the present, given how we’ve performed and in terms of putting people in positions to play this week.”

* * *

With a 2-2 record and coming off a 17-10 loss to the Texans, Tomlin was asked if there was a greater sense of urgency.

“We better have a sense of urgency,” said Tomlin. “I think anytime you are coming off of a substandard performance when you lose, there needs to be a sense of urgency in terms of how you bounce back.

“But we are not going to make something out of this that it’s not. We understand that we are capable of playing better. We expect to play better. We know where the solutions lie, of course within us, and how we prepare and ultimately how we perform. We have to get better technically. We have to get better from an assignment standpoint, not only on defense but also on offense and special teams, and that is what this week is about for us.”

While the players aren’t down on themselves, Tomlin did say that they aren’t happy with how they have performed.

“I think they are hacked off and they should be,” said Tomlin. “We haven’t performed close enough to what we expect. We’ve lost games because of it, specifically we lost last week. We look forward to preparing and playing this week in front of our home fans, and hopefully righting this thing.”