THURSDAY’S POST-PRACTICE BUZZ
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers went to the no-huddle offense early and used it often against the Denver Broncos last Sunday with mixed results.
“I think we did a lot of good things,” Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “Obviously, we didn’t enough good things, but the fact that we were able to control the football and hang onto it for a long time was good. We just needed to finish some of those drives, but for the first time in true, live action … we saw some good things.
“We had a specific plan, to get to it early, and as we had success we chose to stay in it. So, that took us out of some other things that we wanted to do, but … we were out there 15, 16 plays, so I thought we did a good job of wearing down their defense. But we just need to finish off those drives more often and not get as many penalties.”
Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer were the Steelers top running backs against the Broncos with a combined 20 carries, but as Baron Batch and Chris Rainey are worked into the offense a little more — and former starter Rashard Mendenhall returns to game action after knee surgery eight months ago — the backfield could become crowded.
“I’ve been at a place when we ran that pretty effectively and led the league in rushing with a committee of backs, much to the chagrin of Fantasy Football team owners,” Haley said.
“Whatever it takes. We’ve got a nice group. They did some good things, but across the board we’ve got to do better in the run.”
Haley believed that Mendenhall has continued to look better with every practice, and he has not missed any time since the season started. While his return was in question, along with outside linebacker James Harrison (left knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (strained right calf) — who missed a second straight practice Thursday — defensive end Ziggy Hood and running back Jonathan Dwyer (foot) returned to practice and said they will play Sunday.
“I feel all right now,” Hood said. “I just had a little kink in my back, but I’m all right. And I’ll be ready to go for the game Sunday. It was just a bad step. That’s all. I didn’t lift (Wednesday), either, so I just took a little break from it.”
“I just had a little problem with my heel, a bruise, and that can be tough,” Dwyer said. “It was a little tender yesterday, but I’m much better (Thursday) and I’m ready to go. I was glad to take off yesterday, but I’m ready now.”
Along with Harrison and Polamalu, offensive tackle Max Starks (illness) and inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee) did not practice Thursday.
“God willing, I’ll be out there Friday,” Polalamu said. “But it’s up to the coaches and the trainers if I play Sunday.”
For the Jets, TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), S LaRon Landry (heel), CB Darrelle Revis (concussion), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring) and CB Isaiah Trufant (ankle) did not practice. While RB John Connor (knee), WR Stephen Hill (calf), WR Jeremy Kerley (back), LB Joshua Mauga (rib), DT Sione Pouha (back) and S Eric Smith (hip, knee) participated on a limited basis.
If Harrison can’t play again, second-year player Chris Carter could get a second straight start. Or the Steelers could go with third-year pro Jason Worilds.
“That’s not really up to me, but I could handle it if they call my number,” Worilds said. “I played a lot last week, and Chris got the start and did a good job. We’ll see what happens with James, but I would expect me and Chris to both play a lot this week against the Jets.
Polamalu said the standard wouldn’t change if Harrison can’t play again this week, but he acknowledged that since the outside linebacker is such a tough competitor it probably would be difficult for him to sit on the sideline again.
“He’s definitely one of the best players in the NFL,” Polamalu said. “So, he brings a lot to our defense, for sure. … The standard wouldn’t change, no matter who was out there, and we’re not concerned with what the other team thinks about our backup guys. We have confidence in all of them.”
Harrison has said that he’ll discuss his status Friday, that’s when the next update will be provided.