Already reeling from ugly loss at Houston, Steelers' James Harrison now tops off a long injury list
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tries to make it to his feet after being sacked for the seventh time against the Texans Sunday.
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You know your football team has deep problems when the star quarterback limps around in pain Tuesday wearing what looks like an oversized ski boot to protect his injured left foot -- and that is the good news.
"Thankfully, nothing is broken there," said relieved coach Mike Tomlin. "It is a sprain."
And more good news ... Ben Roethlisberger likely will start at quarterback Sunday for the Steelers against Tennessee despite his sprained left foot.
"It may limit him at the early portions of the week but we anticipate him being able to participate in this football game," Tomlin said.
There was a whole lot of bad after that, and it started with four-time All-Pro linebacker James Harrison. He is scheduled to have surgery today to repair a fractured orbital bone around his right eye socket. He was injured when he was blocked helmet-to-helmet by Houston left tackle Duane Brown in the second quarter of a 17-10 loss Sunday.
Harrison left the game but returned in the fourth quarter. Afterward, he stood in front of his locker and told reporters his eye, which looked fine, was all right and that it was injured when the padding in his helmet was forced into it.
Tomlin said the injury will keep Harrison out for "a number of weeks." His agent, Bill Parise, estimated it as four to six weeks.
"That's typical for a fracture to heal," Parise said. "And they're not going to put him out there until it heals. What I don't understand is how you break an orbital bone with a facemask and helmet. It's a freak situation."
Parise said while he did not get a good look at it, the block seemed to be a usual football play and nothing untoward by Brown, the Houston tackle.
Harrison's injury might have been the worst news for the Steelers, but it was not the end of it. His backup, Jason Worilds, is doubtful for Sunday with a left thigh strain.
That means starting inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons will move to starting right outside linebacker and Larry Foote will take Timmons' spot. Stevenson Sylvester will back up on the inside and maybe even on the outside, where only rookie Chris Carter remains available.
"Obviously, we have some adjustments that need to take place in terms of who is playing where and preparations, now specifically at the outside linebacker position with two linebackers being out," Tomlin said. "Lawrence has practiced there and played there before. Larry Foote is no stranger to the mack linebacker position. We anticipate those guys will play winning football for us."
The bad news, though, just keeps coming.
Starting defensive end Aaron Smith has a midfoot sprain and is "extremely questionable" to play against Tennessee. Halfback Mewelde Moore has a left ankle sprain that might keep him out of the game, and starting halfback Rashard Mendenhall has a right hamstring that will, at the very least, limit him in practice.
Right defensive end Brett Keisel, however, should return to play after missing two games with a sprained knee.
"We anticipate him being back," Tomlin said. "His participation at the early portions of the week is going to guide us in that regard. But, again, based on where he is and based on some of the run tests and stuff that he did the latter part of last week, we feel comfortable that he is going to be able to participate in this game."
If Keisel cannot go, it is possible that the two first-round draft picks at defensive end the past three years, Ziggy Hood and rookie Cameron Heyward, could start Sunday.
The Steelers were set to sign a running back to their practice squad, so they would have someone to act like Tennessee's Chris Johnson in drills against the first-team defense this week.
With Moore likely out, Jonathan Dwyer would dress for only the second time in two seasons. And if Mendenhall's hamstring does not come around, Isaac Redman could make his first start at halfback.
"If Rashard's injury does prevent him from playing, obviously that will mean that Isaac Redman will be the feature runner," Tomlin said. "With both guys, at the very least they are nursing injuries at the early portion of the week, it is obvious that Redman is going to get the bulk of the action and we expect Jonathan Dwyer to ready himself to contribute as well, if the opportunity presents itself."
There was another small measure of good news about the injury report.
Tomlin said he expects guard Doug Legursky (shoulder) and tackle Jonathan Scott (ankle) to return after they each missed one game.
He added cornerback Bryant McFadden to the recuperated list as well after he missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. McFadden has practiced the past two weeks but was inactive Sunday. Tomlin indicated he could dress this Sunday but might not be the starting left cornerback. William Gay has started the past three games there, and Keenan Lewis has entered in the nickel.
"I like what's going on with some of the men," Tomlin said, referring to Gay and Lewis. "We will let [McFadden's] level of participation over the course of the week dictate how we get him back into the mix."
Asked what his team's "mindset" was after falling to 2-2, Tomlin said: "I think they are hacked off, and they should be. We haven't performed close enough to what we expect. We've lost games because of it, specifically we lost last week. We look forward to preparing and playing this week in front of our home fans, and, hopefully, righting this thing."
• Game: Steelers (2-2) vs. Tennessee Titans, (3-1), Heinz Field.
• When: 1 p.m. Sunday.
• TV: KDKA.
• Favored: Steelers by 5.
First Published October 5, 2011 12:00 am