On the Steelers: Harrison's back is feeling better; no ligament damage to knees of Scott, Gilbert


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The Steelers, along with Jonathan Scott, exhaled in relief and then went about their business Saturday.

"It's always good news, knowing you don't have a torn ligament," said Scott, the team's starting left tackle.

That was not what Scott first thought when his right knee bent the wrong way on the first play of the preseason game against Philadelphia Thursday night at Heinz Field.

"Oh, God, I hope my career is not over," Scott remembers thinking.

The good news did not become official for Scott and rookie tackle Marcus Gilbert until they received the results of their Friday MRIs that there was no ligament damage to Scott's right knee and Gilbert's left. Coach Mike Tomlin said Saturday that each will miss only a couple of days of practice.

"We're anxious to get those guys out here, particularly Marcus Gilbert; a young guy like him needs as many opportunities to improve as he can," Tomlin said.

The Steelers offensive line has been in enough turmoil without losing its starting left tackle and one of its backups, a second-round draft choice. Both left the Eagles game in the first half with their knee injuries.

The next logical tackle to put there -- and the guys the Steelers did use for a while against the Eagles -- would be Tony Hills. But Hills is starting at right guard, where he is trying to make the transition from tackle and might make his second consecutive start there Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field.

"He's a guy who's in the mix like some others and that's what we're here for," Tomlin said. "He's represented himself well; if he continues to do that he'll continue to be given opportunities."

With two more preseason games remaining and just one in which the first team will play more than one series, the line shapes up like this: Scott at left tackle, Chris Kemoeatu at left guard, Maurkice Pouncey at center, Hills or incumbent Ramon Foster at right guard and Willie Colon at right tackle.

Harrison works his way back

Imagine having back surgery in March and, five months later, fending off 350-pound men for three hours.

"Next Up"

• Preseason Game 3: Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Heinz Field.

• TV: KDKA.

It is what is expected of All-Pro linebacker James Harrison, and he did just that for a full two quarters against the Philadelphia Eagles for the first time since his second back surgery over a week's time early in March.

The pain and numbness have subsided, not disappeared, and he is not back to full strength. Still, Harrison said he feels better than he did during his All-Pro 2010 season, so that is good news for him and his employers.

It was a "good opportunity to get some actual wear and tear that's not practice against other people," Harrison said. "They're not actually going to look out for you and take care of you as your teammates would in practice."

Harrison was able to enunciate in that one sentence the difference between looking good in practice and actually playing in games. In practice, they take care of each other, they are not trying to rip their teammates' heads off the way an opponent might do, even in a preseason game (see Michael Vick's tackle on Troy Polamalu Thursday night).

Shortly after Harrison reported to camp, he said he had "tingling" down his leg and some numbness. Tomlin held him out of practices here and there for precautionary reasons.

After the 24-14 victory against the Eagles Thursday, Harrison said his back is still healing and it may take up to a year for it to return to full health.

"All in all, I'm not 100 percent but it was good enough and hopefully I will continue to get better," Harrison said.

That would beat the alternative. But he reports improvement since his first days at camp.

"There's still pain [but] the pain down my legs and all that, the weakness and all is gone. But I'm not as strong as I was. It's a process that's going to take time. I'm not really that far along, basically about six months out right now. To really get full healing you're looking at anywhere between nine, 12 even up to 18 months."

Dr. Joseph Maroon performed a rather simple surgery on Harrison called a disechtomy that removes a herniated disc pushing against a nerve, and had to go back a week later to take another piece out.

"You're still healing from the surgery itself," Harrison said. "It repaired the problem but having the pain going down your legs to where your legs go numb, you can't really feel all that. Sometimes your legs just give out on you."

Playing with the pain and numbness last season, Harrison led the Steelers with 10 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles.

"I'll be all right, hopefully. I made it through most of last year with it the worst shape it could be in. Right now it's just a matter of getting the strength back and endurance," Harrison said.

Quick hits

Guard Doug Legursky (leg), linebacker Jason Worilds (quad) and cornerback Donovan Warren (hip flexor) have new injuries. ... Tomlin said the cornerbacks "did a better job in this game and we'll expect it to continue." One problem for them has been getting some back on the field, including Crezdon Butler (thigh), rookie Cortez Allen (hamstring) and starter Bryant McFadden (hamstring). ... Tomlin put his team through another 2 1/2 hour practice, continuing the trend at camp at Saint Vincent College after their return to their South Side training facility. It ended about 1:30 p.m., he met with the media and then hightailed it the 45 minutes to Hempfield High School for Terrelle Pryor's pre-draft workout.


For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @EdBouchette.


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