Linebacker leaves facility before practice as left knee responds adversely to full practice Tuesday; hopes for Oct. 7 return
September 27, 2012 4:00 PM
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau makes a point Wednesday at the Steelers' South Side facility, their final practice before breaking for a four-day weekend.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It was a bye week for his teammates. For linebacker James Harrison, it turned into a goodbye week.
The hope that the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker expressed about the condition of his left knee after practicing Tuesday, turned to disappointment Wednesday when he left the Steelers training facility before practice because his knee bothered him.
"It's a little bit of a setback," said agent Bill Parise, who spoke with Harrison after he went home. "Hopefully, it's not something that will derail our plans."
The knee's adverse reaction to his second full practice of the year does not bode well.
Harrison, 34, who had surgery on his knee Aug. 15, practiced Tuesday. Afterward, he wrote on Twitter: "Just finished my first day of full practice, hopefully everything goes well tomorrow!"
That hope now seems out the window, and it looks more like Harrison will miss his fourth game when the Steelers resume play Oct. 7 against Philadelphia at Heinz Field. The Steelers have four days off and return to practice Monday.
Harrison missed most of the spring practices because of the ailing knee, then was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list to open training camp. The arthroscopic surgery removed some cartilage in the meniscus that was thought to cause swelling. He did not practice at all in camp and did not become eligible until the Steelers removed him from the PUP list Aug. 28.
He went through a full practice the Monday before the season opener, was limited in the next practice Wednesday and had not practiced since until Tuesday.
Harrison, the NFL's defensive player of the year in 2008, missed five games last season, four with a broken orbital bone, one because of an NFL suspension for an illegal hit. Before that, he was somewhat of an iron man.
Taking his place at right outside linebacker have been two young players. Chris Carter, a fifth-round draft choice in 2011, has started all three games. Jason Worilds, a second-round pick in 2010 who also spent all of training camp on the PUP following wrist surgery, rotates with Carter.
"I think that's the main thing coach [Keith Butler] likes to do is keep us fresh out there, especially with us being two young guys," Carter said. "So he rotates us as much as he can."
The two of them have not come close to the impact play that Harrison produced. Worilds has one sack and one quarterback pressure. Carter has no sacks or pressures, but two pass deflections.
Harrison has made the Pro Bowl each of his five seasons as a starter. He ranks fourth in team history with 58 official sacks and his 26 forced fumbles rank second. He set the Steelers record with 16 sacks in 2008, when he also had seven forced fumbles.
The Steelers have five sacks this season.
"James is an amazing player, so we take it as a badge of honor to be able to step in for such an accomplished player," Carter said.
Foote denies two reports
Larry Foote said they have it all wrong, that he neither yelled at the replacement officials after the game in Oakland, nor did he yell at them on the field after seeing teammate Ziggy Hood get chop-blocked late in the game.
On the first one, he said he was speaking his mind about his own team, and he said he never saw the block on Hood.
KDKA-TV reported Foote yelled at the officials as they entered their locker room: "You should go kill yourselves."
Foote said Wednesday that "I was ranting, but I didn't see any officials, I was talking to myself. I said 'We killed ourselves.' "
Another report on Deadspin.com suggested Foote was upset because the officials did not call a penalty on a chop block thrown on Hood.
"I couldn't see the play," Foote said. "I made the tackle on the play, how do I know what happened to the defensive tackle on that play? We prepared for [chop blocks] all week. That was last year's beef. We know that's a legal block."
Some Steelers complained last year after their season-opening loss that the Baltimore Ravens were illegally chop-blocking. Turns out, the blocks thrown by the Ravens were legal.
About Wheeler's hit ...
What looked illegal and also did not draw a flag was a late, low hit to the back of the legs of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger by Oakland linebacker Philip Wheeler on the first drive of the second half. It came after Roethlisberger completed a 22-yard pass to Mike Wallace on third-and-15 from the Steelers 15.
Roethlisberger limped after he was hit, but did not mention it after the game nor this week until he was asked about it Wednesday.
"I felt it. I didn't know what happened. I saw it on film. Technically, it's against the rules; you're on the ground, you go at a guy's legs -- but when's the last time I got a call? You know me, I don't complain about it, I never like to call someone dirty. I don't think it was necessarily dirty, I hope he wasn't trying to hurt me. I think he was trying to get me down but I don't think you have to do it that way."
• Unlike Harrison, Troy Polamalu has gone through two full practices this week and could be ready to return to play against the Eagles. Polamalu missed the past two games because of a calf injury.
• Rookie tackle Mike Adams, who missed the game last week because of a back injury, also appears to be recovered.
• Safety Ryan Mundy was fined $21,000 by the NFL for his hit that knocked out Oakland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, ESPN reported.