Steelers plan to rotate outside linebackers to avoid fatigue
October 6, 2012
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
James Harrison, pictured, and LaMarr Woodley will be rotated to save energy in the game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and their elusive quarterback, Michael Vick.
The Steelers might have learned a lesson after the defense blew a pair of 10-point leads in the fourth quarter of their loss against Oakland.
Perhaps, that's why they plan to rotate outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in the game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and their elusive quarterback, Michael Vick.
Harrison, a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker, will make his return against the Eagles (3-1) after missing spring and summer camps with a recurring knee injury. He will be joined in the starting lineup by All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, who sat out the past two games with a calf injury.
The Steelers (1-2) told Harrison he will be spelled in the first half by Chris Carter, who has been starting at right outside linebacker since minicamp. The coaches want to be sure Harrison is fresh for the fourth quarter.
"I have to come off," Harrison said. "It's no need being out there, being dog-tired, and not be able to do what's necessary to play the position. You want to stay fresh. You don't want to go out there and play every snap in the first half and come out sluggish in the third and have nothing left in the fourth."
The Steelers have a similar plan for Woodley, who has three of the team's five sacks.
They will spell him early with Jason Worilds because they want to make sure Woodley is fresh enough to chase Vick in the fourth quarter. But the Steelers will not have Harrison and Woodley out of the game at the same time.
After the defense blew leads of 24-14 and 31-21 in the fourth quarter of their 34-31 loss to the Raiders, the coaches want to make sure their best players are fresh when the game might be on the line in the fourth quarter.
In Harrison's case, though, it is his first game since the wild-card playoff loss in Denver.
"When it comes down to it, a lot of it simply is because I haven't played," Harrison said. "To actually think you're going to go out there and play 60-plus snaps in a game ... I haven't seen the normal training camp, the normal [organized training activities] and preseason. When you look at it, it's really coming up on what would be my first preseason game."