By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers had a glorified walkthrough for a regular Wednesday practice leading up to Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Rams at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field, James Harrison appeared to have an edge.
No, the Steelers veteran outside linebacker wasn’t hitting every player that came in his area, but Harrison practiced with a purpose. And his two-minute talk with the media afterward was short and sweet as well.
Yes, Harrison definitely is ready to come back after his one-game suspension for an illegal hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, and while he watched parts of the game Monday night it wasn’t the first time he watched the Steelers on television.
And it was no more difficult than the four games Harrison missed earlier this season due to a fractured orbital bone. But don’t expect him to be angry.
“It happens,” Harrison said. “Oh well, you deal with it and move on. I’m not worried about anything. I can’t foresee the future, and I’m not a fortune teller. So, I’ll deal with it as it comes. I’m doing everything that they’ve asked me to do. I’ve lowered my target area, and I did that before (this season).”
Then, why didn’t it happen on the latest penalized hit against McCoy, clearly Harrison’s most egregious hit this season?
“I guess he’s a little bit shorter,” Harrison said. “I don’t know. I don’t know if he ducked, but it came down to it and my helmet hit his. Oh, well. Obviously, they didn’t take into account anything good from this year. And (the suspension) didn’t get overturned, and almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
“And at this point, it really doesn’t matter. My helmet hit his helmet, so it is what it is. But if he was hurt so bad, I don’t know why they let him back in two plays later. So, something should be done to them, I would think. I got a game (suspension), so what should they get?”
When the power went out at Candlestick Park in San Francisco before the game, Harrison sent out a message via his Twitter account saying that if he can’t play, then nobody can play. Harrison was asked if he got some responses to it or if he expected any retribution from the NFL offices.
“I don’t know,” Harrison said. “I Tweeted, and then I put my phone down. (But) I don’t know what they can do about that.”
Steelers wideout Hines Ward has a photo posted that has Harrison throwing a switch next to some electrical box. The linebacker appreciated that.
“That was pretty decent,” Harrison said. “It was all right, but I could have done a little better matching it up.”
While Hines Ward has surpassed 12,000 receiving yards in his illustrious career, he is still nine receptions short of 1,000. And with the prospects not good for the Steelers to get a home playoff game, Saturday could be Ward’s last game in a Steelers jersey at Heinz Field.
“I don’t even think like that,” Ward said. “Every year is different, and I’m still glad to be here. But that thought didn’t even cross my mind yet. I just want to win. It really doesn’t matter about the catches, as long as we win. And if we win, we’ve still got a chance, so it’s always great to win at home and especially nice to do it on Christmas Eve.”
Ward came home from San Francisco with no additional catches even though he played when the Steelers went to four-wide sets. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw 44 passes toward seven different targets, but none went Ward’s way. So, could he be concerned that he won’t reach that goal?
“I don’t know, but we’ve still got two (regular-season) games remaining,” Ward said. “For me, like I’ve said, it was great to surpass 12,000 yards and I’m on the cusp of getting 1,000 catches.
“But more than anything, it’s all about winning. So, I just want to win ball games, and to do it on Christmas Eve in front of our home crowd would be special. So, I’m really just concentrating on the St. Louis game.”
Starter Rashard Mendenhall (ribs) is expected to be ready for Saturday’s game, and backup Isaac Redman is ready for however he’s needed. But third-down back Mewelde Moore already is out with an MCL sprain in his left knee.
“I believe that I’m a fast healer, and I can be back within a week,” Moore said. “So, we’ll see how I feel after this week, and we’ll take it from there.”
An option for the Steelers could be to activate rookie John Clay from the practice squad. The former Wisconsin Badger just made the team late in training camp, but he has languished on the practice squad all season.
“This reminds me of my freshman year at Wisconsin,” Clay said. “I was redshirting, so all that waiting around was tough for me. But it was something you mostly expect when you get to college. You don’t like it, but that’s how it is. So, it’s the same thing here. I’m just happy to be part of a great team, even if I’m just on the practice squad.
“I go to meetings every day and get asked questions by the coaches to make sure I’m staying on top of things, because you never know in this league. We had a little test today (Wednesday morning), and I took all the reps during the walkthrough. Everybody told me I was doing good, and it seemed like I had picked up everything. I guess Isaac would do third-down stuff for now.
“But if he needs a spell or something else changes, I’ll be able to handle it,” Clay added. “I would guess he’ll get the bulk of the third-down work, but it would be a blessing for me just to be added to the 53-man roster. I’ve been working hard since camp, so for me to be in a regular game would be great. It was tough this season, but the guys encouraged me and kept me sharp as well.”
Notes: Center Maurkice Pouncey (left high-ankle sprain) and WR Emmanuel Sanders (right foot) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, while QB Ben Roethlisberger (left high-ankle sprain), Moore (knee), CB Curtis Brown (knee) and OLB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) did not participate at all.
For the Rams, QB Sam Bradford (ankle), QB A.J. Feeley (right thumb), CB Josh Gordy (abdomen), CB Justin King (shoulder) and DE Chris Long (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. And WR Brandon Lloyd (illness) was a full participant.