By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The news continued to improve Wednesday for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ two injured offensive linemen, as both right guard Ramon Foster (ocular migraine) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (hyperextended left knee) are expected to play against the New York Jets Sunday at 4:25 p.m. at Heinz Field.
The playing status of outside linebacker James Harrison (left knee) and strong safety Troy Polamalu (right calf strain) was not as clear, as neither participated in Wednesday afternoon’s practice session. Polamalu was expected to return later in the week, according to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin Tuesday in his weekly press conference.
Harrison, however, has practiced just three times with the team since it was eliminated by Denver Jan. 8 in the playoffs. He participated in OTAs May 21-22 and had some issues with his left knee. Harrison did not have arthroscopic surgery on the knee until Aug. 15, and he went through a hard practice last Monday, Sept. 3. He did not practice the rest of last week and was supposed to run Wednesday, according to Tomlin. Harrison spent the afternoon in the weight room, but he would not comment on the injury.
Polamalu was barely forthcoming, as usual, with his injury situation.
“Coach knows how I feel better than I do,” Polamalu said. “(But) I didn’t practice today. … Coach Tomlin knows my body better than I do. (After a few chuckles). I guess I should clarify that he knows my injuries better than I do.”
O-Line Hopes For Stability
While the Steelers attempted to put together a different offensive line going into this season, they were thrilled with the news that Gilbert and Foster would return this week to give them the same starting five for two straight games.
“It’s been tough for this O-line the past couple years,” left tackle Max Starks said. “But if we can stay healthy as a group, our play should be more consistent and continue to improve each week.”
Gilbert, who ditched his bulky knee brace for a much sleeker model, said his knee felt much better the past couple days.
“I guess it looked a lot worse than it really was, but it felt pretty bad, I can tell you that,” Gilbert said. “But it’s just something that you can’t control. Guys play to the whistle, and that’s what happened here. There was nothing I could do about it, but I’m definitely glad things turned out better than I expected.”
Foster noted that his vision improved “by the time I walked to the locker room at halftime, but the migraine was really intense.” That condition has improved greatly as well since the game.
That was the first time I ever had anything happen like that,” Foster said. “I had what you might call a mild migraine when I first got to Denver, but this was something else. Now that I’ve had an ocular one, I know how bad it can be.
“It could have been from a hit or it could have been from my sinuses, from what they’re saying, but I’m just glad it got taken care of really quick.”
Neither was limited in practice Wednesday, and both expected to play this week. Joining Harrison and Polamalu on the sideline were running back Jonathan Dwyer (foot) and inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee). Defensive end Ziggy Hood (back) was limited in practice, while running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) continued to practice on a full-time basis.
Jets Injury Update
Running back John Connor (knee), wideout Jeremy Kerley (back), offensive guard Dennis Landolt (knee), cornerback Darrelle Revis (concussion) and linebacker Bryan Thomas (hamstring) did not participate Wednesday.
There also was a large group that practiced on a limited basis, including wideout Stephen Hill (calf), tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring), linebacker Joshua Mauga (ribs), defensive tackle Sione Pouha (back), safety Eric Smith (hip, knee) and cornerback Isaiah Trufant (ankle).
Jets coach Rex Ryan Unplugged
Ryan had a conference call Wednesday and was fairly engaging, but not as much as usual. It seems that Ryan weighs about 240 pounds now, some 105 less than he used to weigh before a surgical procedure reduced it. Ryan did say that he would have liked to have that weight when he took a shot last week.
Ryan was knocked down by Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler after Jets safety Yeremiah Bell shoved him out of bounds.
“I’m questionable for this game,” Ryan joked to a large media turnout. “I’ve been hit a bunch, but never run over. That was a first. That’s a big dude, now. He’s like 6-7 or something. I just hope I don’t get hit by Gilbert or Starks like that with their size. So, it’s pretty funny.
“When I was a little heavier, I might have been able to take it a little better than I did there. So, I’m doing good, but I will say this: There is no truth to the rumor that we are placing a bounty on Mike Tomlin. I’m not saying that. That’s not the rumor that we want to get started, but I’m doing great.”
Ryan added that he’s just glad it’s not an AFC championship game at Heinz Field Sunday, because the Jets don’t do too well in those.