PITTSBURGH – The Steelers returned from their bye week Monday rested and ready to attack the final five games of their schedule.
And for the first time in nearly two months, the team’s defense looked a lot closer to what coach Mike Tomlin had envisioned as five injured starters returned to the field.
Included in that group is cornerback Ike Taylor, who hasn't played since suffering a fractured forearm in a Sept. 21 win at Carolina.
Taylor, who's been practicing on a limited basis for the past month, was given clearance by team doctors Monday to return to full contact.
“It feels good,” said Taylor. “Doc gave me the green light, so it’s all good. He’s been revving me up at the yellow. I got the green, so no speed limit.”
Jones, who suffered a dislocation and ligament damage in his wrist, also in the win at Carolina, was on the injured reserve/designated to return list. The Steelers have three weeks to decide whether to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
“It was fun just seeing everyone out there again healthy,” said Jones of returning to practice for the first time since his injury. “It’s a terrible feeling to be hurt and have to sit and watch from the sideline. You can’t help your teammates.
“Everybody’s back now. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
How much time those injured players see on the field remains to be seen. But getting just one back would be a boost to a Pittsburgh defense that's ranked 15th in the league in total yards and allowing just under 24 points per game.
Polamalu, Shazier and McLendon would seem to be the easiest to assimilate back into the defense.
Polamalu (knee) and Shazier (ankle) missed the past two games, while McLendon missed three of the past five games while dealing with a nagging shoulder injury.
“We got everybody back out there,” said Shazier. “It’s great, especially when you have the whole team back. It really helps with the depth. It keeps fresh bodies out there.”
At 7-4, the Steelers have managed to keep themselves in the middle of the playoff race in the AFC. With five crucial games remaining, starting with Sunday’s game at Heinz Field against New Orleans, every healthy body will help.
“It’s the perfect time to come back, for me,” said Taylor. “I tried to be the best cheerleader. Seeing the young guys come up and make plays and doing what they need to do, it’s been exciting. To get out there with them, I feel great.”
(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)