By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison basically said Friday that there are no guarantees in life, although the Grim Reaper and IRS would beg to differ, but it’s highly probable that Harrison and strong safety Troy Polamalu will not play against the New York Jets Sunday afternoon.
Neither practiced at all this week, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would like to have a player practice at least on Friday before he plays in that week’s game. Harrison, who had arthroscopic surgery Aug. 15 on his left knee, agreed that it’s a good idea to get at least one day of practice. Harrison has not practiced since Sept. 3 and did not play in any preseason games.
Harrison and Polamalu were listed as questionable on the Steelers official injury report Friday. The only player the Steelers list as out this week is inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee). Running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is listed as doubtful, even though he was a full participant in practice all week.
“I feel great,” Harrison said, as he unwrapped the knee to take a large ice bag off it. “It’s up to me if I play, because they don’t know how I feel. I know how I feel. If I feel like I can go, I’ll go. If I don’t, then I won’t. I hope it gets better this season, (but) nothing’s certain. I could walk out of here today and die. I hope I don’t walk out of here and get hit by a car and die.
“What it comes down to is that there’s no need to hurry up and rush yourself back and end up doing more damage so you have to deal with the injury for the rest of the season, instead of saying that you’ll sit out a few weeks and get it back healthy rather than to go play a game, re-injure it.
“Then, (you would) have to sit out and rehab it to get it to where you can play again in another week or so. So, it’s too early in the season to go out there and actually do more damage to prevent myself from being out there and being healthy. (So), I feel better than last week, (but) I couldn’t put a number on it.”
Polamalu, who has a strained right calf, deferred to Coach Tomlin when any media member asked if he believed he would play this week or if he had a chance to play. He added that while he could “do mental repetitions on the sideline” while watching the defense, it “would be better to be on the field.”
Polamalu basically agreed with Harrison that it was better to miss a couple games and get completely healthy.
“Yeah, you definitely don’t want injuries nagging you the entire year, but you never know what these AFC matchups mean for the future, either,” Polamalu said. “What our job is, is to play one game at a time and let the chips fall the way that they do.
“But you definitely don’t want to get an even worse injury and endanger your entire season. The more you practice, the better you are for the games. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Polamalu missed two games in 2010 and none last season, while Harrison sat out five games last season — one by suspension and four after fracturing an orbital bone. The Steelers aren’t the only team missing a Pro Bowler, as cornerback Darrelle Revis (concussion) won’t even be making the trip. Revis was not cleared medically for contact, so it was an easy decision to sit him out.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was glad to get one Pro Bowl safety back this week in Ryan Clark, even though he likely will be without the other one in Polamalu, since Clark “is a weapon for us. He’s a great player, and we’re glad to have him in there. (Harrison) is a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, so you know he’s a great player.
“But we’ve played without him and Troy, who also won the same award. Our guys know what’s required of them. They have to step up and fill the vacancies and push on. We miss those types of guys, and we’ll be happy when we get them back. (But) it should never be a factor in who wins the game.”
Ryan Mundy took every first-team snap for Polamalu, alongside Clark, in the Steelers secondary. Mundy actually plays Clark’s free safety spot, while Clark is the strong safety when Polamalu is out. Second-year player Chris Carter started last week at Denver and has taken all the first-team reps this week at Harrison’s right outside linebacker spot. Jason Worilds has been the backup.