By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — James Harrison was listed as being a limited participant in practice Tuesday for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it appeared that all the players could have been considered that way during the light workout in shorts for the game against the Tennessee Titans Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn.
As expected, safety Troy Polamalu (right calf strain) and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (right hamstring strain) did not participate. Neither will play against the Titans, but Woodley could come back for the Oct. 21 game at Cincinnati.
Until then, third-year player Jason Worilds will start at his left outside linebacker spot. Worilds had three solo tackles, including two stops behind the line with one sack, two quarterback hurries and a pass breakup as Woodley’s replacement.
“I did all right against the Eagles, coming in for LaMarr, but I think I’ve made progress every time that I’ve played in a game,” Worilds said. “So, if I can continue to do that I think I’ll be all right. … I had (seven) starts last year, and I played the best football in my career.”
Worilds has played in 30 career games, including those seven starts, and he has seven sacks. While some believe he has underachieved, injuries appear to be the only things that have held him back. Worilds spent the entire camp on the PUP list due to a left hand injury, but he’s healthy now.
“He’s doing his job,” Harrison said. “He’s doing well, but I didn’t have time to watch him and watch my play at the same time. So, I can’t really talk about him. (And) we really don’t coach each other up during the game. If you have a question, you might ask the other guy, but other than that the coaching during the game is done by the coaches.”
Harrison pretty much declined to assess his own play against the Eagles, noting that, “It was all right.” But Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Harrison’s teammates believed he would make an impact just by showing up, even if Harrison didn’t agree with that assessment.
“Just having a guy like him in there, a former league defensive MVP, a guy like James, aka Silverback, aka Debo, aka I’m scared of him … having him in there brings a lot to a team,” Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor said. “When you see James in an alley and say something to him, what do you think he’s going to do? Just his presence, man, just having James on the field, knowing that, coming through that locker room for warmups, the crowd was excited.
“So just having him out there really helps us out. (But) you can’t run away from him. Nobody’s going to run away from nobody when you get between those lines, probably to the extent that they want to see if that’s the old James Harrison. So, regardless, nobody is going to run from nobody. But, James is James, aka Debo. And we know what to expect from him.”
Harrison had just two solo tackles, but three quarterback hurries despite being roughed up continually by the Eagles offensive line and left tackle Demetress Bell in particular. Many believed the return of Harrison and Polamalu was a boost to the Steelers defense, even though the latter played less than a half.
However, if there was a positive to Polamalu’s limited play, it would be the increased playing time by Ryan Mundy and Will Allen. Since Mundy has been much maligned this season, Allen could get even more playing time in the base defense against the Titans.
“I hope so,” Allen said. “I hope that I do get more time, but we’ll see what happens. … You never want to play without a guy like Troy, a supreme player, but it certainly helped me and Ryan get more reps than we usually would get. So, the more you can get on the field, the better you’ll be.
(And) you obviously want to play as much as you can, in the base defense, as well as special teams, but if you can get a little bit of the load off of you then you can have time to get your legs back and be more productive on defense and special teams. So, whatever Coach wants me to do, I’m all in for that.”
According to the Steelers, Harrison (knee), running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee) practiced Tuesday on a limited basis. Woodley and Polamalu were the only players who did not practice.