2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Harrison's return a big boost to Steelers defense

    2012-10-03 17:25

PITTSBURGH (AP) - LaMarr Woodley says it's not so much the double teams, or the chip from a running back, or even the way an opposing offense might shift its protection scheme to his side of the field.

The absence of fellow former All Pro Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison has had a much less tangible effect on Woodley.

``I really can't tell as far as, like, the protection schemes,'' Woodley said.

But make no mistake. Like the rest of the 1-2 Steelers, Woodley is ecstatic that Harrison is on track to make his season debut Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) come to Pittsburgh.

Harrison practiced fully on Wednesday, and all indications are he will be on the field chasing Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

``He definitely makes a difference,'' Woodley said of Harrison. ``Then, (offenses) kind of have to pick their poison.''

Long known as Blitzburgh under coordinator Dick LeBeau because of its reputation for racking up sacks, the Steelers defense has only five of them through three games. Harrison might not be a cure-all, but he certainly can't hurt for a game some Steelers are already calling a ``must-win.''

``James is a great, great player,'' defensive end Brett Keisel said. ``When he's out there, he's definitely a difference-maker for us. Teams have to account for him and possibly have to double-team him. It creates opportunities for others.''

The player who would figure to most benefit is Woodley, who has averaged .83 sacks per game (counting playoffs) over the past four-plus seasons. Woodley has had one sack in each of the past two games out of his customary left outside linebacker position, but Harrison's replacements on the other side haven't come close to matching his sack production. Harrison has 58 sacks and needs two more to tie Joey Porter for second on the franchise career list; Chris Carter and Jason Worilds have combined for one sack this season.

It's a big reason why the defense that had ranked in the top three of the NFL in six of the previous eight years has plummeted to 21st four weeks into this season.

``We've had opportunities to get sacks and missed a few, so it's just about taking advantage of what you get and when you get your hands on a quarterback, getting him on the ground,'' Keisel said.

That simple task figures to be as difficult as it will be all season for the Steelers on Sunday with the speedy, elusive Vick in town. Vick is the NFL's all-time leading rusher for a quarterback, so pursuing him isn't as simple as it is with a traditional, plodding pocket passer.

``With Michael Vick, it's not about necessarily making the play as it is stopping him from making the play,'' safety Ryan Clark said. ``Maybe sometimes you can't rush up the field or you can't go inside because you want to keep that pocket and keep him inside and make him a pocket passer.''

Vick has been sacked 11 times through Philadelphia's first four games. Five of those came in the Eagles' lone loss, at Arizona.

``We want to get him moving a little bit inside the pocket and not outside the pocket, force him to make some bad decisions and give our secondary an opportunity to make some plays,'' Woodley said.

But in addition to ranking tied for 29th in the league in sacks, the Steelers have managed only one interception this season.

The lack of those kinds of ``splash plays'' - to use coach Mike Tomlin's vernacular - is, as much as anything, why the Steelers are 1-2 for the first time under Tomlin. In addition to Harrison, All Pro safety Troy Polamalu is practicing fully and expected to return to action against the Eagles after missing the past two games.

Vick has been prone to throw interceptions when rushed into making quick decisions. That shifts the burden back onto the Steelers' pair of prominent pass-rushers.

Harrison and Woodley each dealt with injuries last season, meaning it's been more than a year since both were on the field at the same time and 100 percent healthy.

The prospect of that changing has Woodley salivating.

``Hopefully being that we have James back,'' said Woodley, ``we will get some pressure on that side, and that will make (Vick) come back to me.''

NOTES: Along with Harrison and Polamalu, the Steelers' other standout who has missed significant time due to injury also practiced fully Wednesday. RB Rashard Mendenhall reiterated that he expects to play Sunday and that he believes he will start. Mendenhall has not played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in last season's regular season finale Jan. 1. ... Starting RT Marcus Gilbert also practiced fully and indicated he was healthy enough he would play Sunday.

--

Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Teddy BridgewaterSep 29 09:47p

Minnesota Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater (ankle) did not participate in practice Monday, Sept. 29. QB Christian Ponder worked with the first-team offense during practice.

Geno SmithSep 29 09:47p

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan publicly remained supportive of QB Geno Smith Monday, Sept. 29. He said he talked to the quarterback about his incident with yelling [ More ]

Donald BrownSep 29 09:23p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown and RB Branden Oliver combined for 42 yards on 29 carries in Week 4, and although head coach Mike McCoy bashed the running [ More ]

LeSean McCoySep 29 09:23p

Updating a previous report, Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy (toe) is not injured, head coach Chip Kelly said Monday, Sept. 29. 'He's not on the treatment list,' Kelly said. [ More ]

Vernon DavisSep 29 09:23p

Updating a previous report, San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis (back) had a 'positive mindset' Monday, Sept. 29, but general manager Trent Baalke said the extent of his injury is 'not fully known.'

Stevan RidleySep 29 09:13p

New England Patriots RB Stevan Ridley was on the field for just one of his team's seven offensive snaps in the first quarter Monday, Sept. 29, in the Week [ More ]

Roddy WhiteSep 29 09:03p

Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White said he expects the team to be involved in high-scoring shootouts all year, and head coach Mike Smith agreed to an extent. 'I don't [ More ]

David NelsonSep 29 08:13p

New York Jets WR David Nelson (ankle) suffered an ankle injury in Week 4, and the signing of WR Chris Owusu could be an indication Nelson's injury is significant. [ More ]

Frank AlexanderSep 29 08:03p

The Carolina Panthers reinstated DE Frank Alexander Monday, Sept. 29, after he served his four-game suspension. He won't count toward the 53-man roster limit for one week.

Patrick ChungSep 29 07:53p

New England Patriots SS Patrick Chung and RB James White were back taking kickoffs in pregame warm-ups Monday, Sept. 29, before the Week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jarrett BoykinSep 29 07:23p

Green Bay Packers LB Sam Barrington (hamstring), DT Josh Boyd (knee) and WR Jarrett Boykin (groin) did not practice Monday, Sept. 29. LBs Brad Jones (quadriceps) and Clay Matthews [ More ]

Jerick McKinnonSep 29 07:23p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (ankle) was limited in practice Monday, Sept. 29.

Chad GreenwaySep 29 07:23p

Minnesota Vikings LB Chad Greenway (hand, rib) and CB Captain Munnerlyn (illness) did not practice Monday, Sept. 29. CB Josh Robinson (hamstring) was limited, while FB Jerome Felton (knee), [ More ]

Aaron MurraySep 29 07:13p

The Kansas City Chiefs have declared QB Aaron Murray, WR Albert Wilson, DL Damion Square, RB De'Anthony Thomas, SS Eric Berry, RB Joe McKnight, OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif inactive for Week 4.

Aaron DobsonSep 29 07:13p

The New England Patriots have declared WR Aaron Dobson, CB Alfonzo Dennard, DL Casey Walker, OT Jordan Devey, OL Josh Kline, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, DE Zach Moore inactive for Week 4.

Chris OgbonnayaSep 29 07:03p

The Carolina Panthers will sign free-agent RB Chris Ogbonnaya (Browns).

Tharold SimonSep 29 06:53p

Seattle Seahawks CB Tharold Simon (knee) is making progress in his recovery from knee surgery and is a few weeks away from returning, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Luke WillsonSep 29 06:53p

Seattle Seahawks TE Luke Willson is expected to take over as the starting tight end while TE Zach Miller (ankle) is out.

Ray RiceSep 29 06:53p

Free-agent RB Ray Rice's (Ravens) appeal of his suspension will be heard by a neutral arbitrator after the NFL agreed to the change. The NFL and NFL Players Association [ More ]

Ropati PitoituaSep 29 06:43p

Tennessee Titans DE Ropati Pitoitua (knee) hopes to play in Week 5 after missing Week 4 because of a lateral collateral ligament sprain.

Bruce CarterSep 29 06:23p

Updating a previous report, Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter (quadriceps) is considered day-to-day because of the quadriceps injury he suffered in Week 4.

Nick FolesSep 29 06:13p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles did not complete any of his 10 passes that traveled at least 20 yards down the field in Week 4, and two of those [ More ]

Chris ProsinskiSep 29 06:13p

Jacksonville Jaguars CB Chris Prosinski and Washington Redskins LB Gabe Miller and DT Robert Thomas cleared waivers and became free agents Monday, Sept. 29.

Tauren PooleSep 29 06:03p

Carolina Panthers RB Tauren Poole was placed on no-recall waivers Monday, Sept. 29.

LeSean McCoySep 29 05:53p

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy is not dealing with any injuries at this time, according to head coach Chip Kelly. McCoy rushed for only 17 yards on 10 carries in Week 4.

Josh NormanSep 29 05:23p

Carolina Panthers CB Melvin White has been benched in favor of CB Josh Norman.

Dee MillinerSep 29 05:23p

New York Jets CB Dee Milliner (quadriceps) could return this week, according to head coach Rex Ryan, who said he's confident Milliner will be able to play Week 5.

Jarius WrightSep 29 05:13p

Minnesota Vikings WR Jarius Wright said he created a solid chemistry with QB Teddy Bridgewater during the preseason, which is why he caught eight passes for 132 yards in [ More ]

Tommy BohanonSep 29 05:03p

New York Jets FB Tommy Bohanon (collarbone) has a fractured collarbone, according to head coach Rex Ryan.

Winston GuySep 29 05:03p

The Jacksonville Jaguars released SS Winston Guy Monday, Sept. 29.

Zach MillerSep 29 05:03p

Updating previous reports, Seattle Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle) is only expected to miss two games after he underwent ankle surgery last week.

Marques ColstonSep 29 04:43p

New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston has struggled quite a bit during the first month of the season and seems to disappear at times. He had a late-game fumble [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group