James Harrison, Jason Worilds in line to play in Steelers opener

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The Steelers have taken Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison and top backup Jason Worilds off the physically-unable-to-perform list with the idea that both can play in the regular-season opener in Denver.

Harrison, a former NFL defensive player of the year, and Worilds have not practiced since the spring and will not dress Thursday night for the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.

However, both players are scheduled to practice Monday when the team will begin preparation for the Broncos. If all goes well, Harrison and Worilds each could play in the game, although it might be on a limited basis.

"I'll be all right," said Harrison, who had arthroscopic surgery two weeks ago on his knee. "It's feeling a lot better, actually."

Since the spring, Harrison has tried twice to test his knee in agility drills, and each time the knee swelled. But he has been running in the therapy pool and his knee has responded favorably to the rehabilitation.

Worilds, a second-round pick in 2010, had surgery on his left wrist in the spring and has been unable to hinge his wrist to take on blockers. But he has been going through punching drills without any setbacks and will wear a wrist brace when he returns.

It has been a tough training camp for the linebacker unit. Inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, who has been used at the outside spot in training camp because of the injuries to Harrison and Worilds, sprained the medial collateral ligament in his knee during the final practice at Saint Vincent College. He is expected to be out another two weeks.

"I'm hoping to get back sooner than that," Sylvester said.

Starters sitting

Coach Mike Tomlin did not say how long the starters will play, if at all, against the Panthers, saying decisions will be made "on a case-by-case basis."

However, he did say running back Isaac Redman (ankle) will not play and No. 3 quarterback Charlie Batch is "going to play a bunch." Tomlin said Redman's injury is not serious and expects him to be ready for Denver.

Defensive end Brett Keisel (ankle) and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (back) did not practice Tuesday and are not expected to play, either.

Tomlin said he has been trying to convince the young players that several roster spots can still be won with a good performance against the Panthers. He pointed to Sylvester and running back Jonathan Dwyer as players who made the final roster with a good showing in a preseason finale.

"This is a legitimate opportunity, a last opportunity to make a strong push to put them on the right side of the ledger, if you will," Tomlin said.

Hampton targets Sept. 9

Five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton practiced for the second day in a row and considers himself on schedule for his targeted return date -- Sept. 9 in Denver. Hampton, who had surgery Jan. 27 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament surgery in his left knee, might even play Thursday night against the Panthers, Tomlin said.

It is the third time Hampton has had ACL surgery, dating to when he played at the University of Texas. It the second time on his left knee.

"It's just confidence with me," Hampton said. "I've done it three times. I'm getting used to it. I'm not scared; it's just getting the confidence in it."



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