PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said Thursday that he believed outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are finally healthy and rounding into football shape, which could be trouble for the team’s opposition the rest of this season.
The Steelers (5-3) have won three straight going into a game against the Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) Monday night at 8:30 at Heinz Field.
“Not to make excuses, but I said earlier in the year that we had a number of guys who had not played any offseason football,” LeBeau said. “(That is) no coaching sessions or training camp, so those guys are just starting to get their football conditioning going and their football muscles going.
“And I think that definitely has been a factor in our improvement. LaMarr and James Harrison are two big, big factors in that equation, without a doubt. And we’re looking forward to getting Troy (Polamalu) back out there. We hope that’s going to happen very soon.”
While Harrison’s offseason, training camp and early regular-season practice time was limited due to a knee injury, he has not missed a game since returning Oct. 7 against Philadelphia. Woodley actually has missed just one game, Oct. 11 at Tennessee, but a nagging hamstring problem finally has diminished.
“We’ve been battling a few injuries here and there, but as far as getting into a groove and playing with each other, going out there and doing what we’re supposed to do and trusting each other, I think we’ve been displaying that,” Woodley said Thursday after practice.
“We went out there against the Giants (last Sunday) and closed out the game in the fourth quarter. That’s something that we hadn’t been doing a good job with earlier in the season, but we’re all on the same page now and are finishing games. So, we’ve been much more successful.”
Harrison has just one sack and six quarterback pressures this season, while Woodley has a team-best three sacks (tied with Jason Worilds and Larry Foote) and 10 quarterback pressures. The Steelers have just four interceptions and three fumble recoveries, among the NFL’s lowest turnover numbers, while the Chiefs have committed among the most with 15 lost fumbles and 14 interceptions thrown.
Ta’amu Arraignment Set
Steelers rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday, apologized to those whose cars he hit and the police officers involved during his wild ride on Pittsburgh’s South Side in the early morning Oct. 14.
Ta’amu, who awaits a formal arraignment Dec. 31, was charged with several felonies — aggravated assault, aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI and fleeing an officer. He is also charged with a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of an accident and misdemeanor escape and DUI.
Three charges of aggravated assault were withdrawn Thursday in court.
“He’s contrite,” attorney Robert DelGreco said. “He has accepted responsibility, and he’s in counseling.”
Ta’amu said Thursday that he was happy to apologize, and it was “good to get that off my chest.” And while he wishes this entire incident could be put behind him, he’ll take “small, baby steps to eventually get past it.”
Teammates like Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton have helped Ta’amu move past this situation, as far as the Steelers are concerned, but he wouldn’t characterize football as an escape for him.
“I have good teammates, (and) being in this locker room is a home away from home for me, Ta’amu said. “I’m comfortable with that. So, I’m really fortunate to be on a team like the Steelers, one that has supported me from the very beginning.
“I really don’t have any family in Pittsburgh. But some of the guys have come over my house. … And my mom has been here, living with me, for about three weeks now. And it’s always good to have my mom around. My sister was here, too, but she left last week.
“So, my mom’s here, but she’s going to leave (Friday),” Ta’amu added. “To know that she was here to support me, that meant a lot. She’s my mom, and she’ll always be there for me. She keeps me grounded.”
Ta’amu already was suspended for two games by the Steelers, but he was reinstated last week.
Notes: WR Antonio Brown (ankle), S Troy Polamalu (calf) and LB Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) did not practice Thursday and are not expected to play against the Chiefs. … OT Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and RB Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) practiced on a limited basis, but neither is expected to play as well. … RB Jonathan Dwyer (quad), RB Chris Rainey (ribs) and PK Shaun Suisham (left ankle) were full participants Thursday.