The Pittsburgh Steelers may be just 1-2 and coming off of a much needed bye week, and it appears as if they are getting healthy at just the right time. When the Steelers play host to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, they will be at close to full strength for the first time in the 2012 NFL season with the returns of Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison.
All three players completed a full week of practice after the bye week. Polamalu has not played since the Steelers lost to the Denver Broncos to open up the 2012 NFL regular season, while Mendenhall and Harrison will both be making their much awaited season debuts.
Harrison had minor surgery on his left knee in August and Polamalu has had a calf injury. This will be the first time all season that the Steelers can consider themselves close to full strength on defense, although they may have actually missed Mendenhall nearly as much on offense.
The Steelers have struggled to run the ball with much effectiveness at all to start this season, as Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have failed to get things going with any consistency at all for Pittsburgh through the first four games. They may want to take things slowly with Mendenhall to start out, but he may receive more carries than they would like so that they can keep the chains moving and the defense honest. Mendenhall has recovered from tearing his right ACL on Jan. 1.
But as much as Pittsburgh would love to say that all three players are returning at 100 percent, that is probably not going to be the case. All three will see a little less action than normal, with Harrison expected to be on some sort of a snap count. It is unknown what that number may be, as well as just how many touches Mendenhall will see on Sunday.
Either way, having already fallen a game and a half behind the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North, the Steelers know that they are going to need every healthy body going forward if they wish to get back into the NFL Playoffs this season. All three teams reached the postseason last year, and they could be well on their way to accomplishing that once again in 2012.
That could all depend on how healthy the Steelers are in the weeks ahead, and it all starts on Sunday against the Eagles.