It looks like LB James Harrison and SS Troy Polamalu are going to miss another game this week, as the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to west to face the Oakland Raiders Sunday afternoon in Oakland.
It would be the third-straight game on the sideline for Harrison, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 15, and second in a row for Polamalu, who has a strained right calf. Another player unlikely to return until after the bye week is RB Rashard Mendenhall, who is just eight months removed from reconstructive knee surgery.
The Steelers have a bye after the Oakland game before returning to face the Philadelphia Eagles Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field. Mendenhall has practiced the past two weeks, while Harrison has not and Polamalu missed all of last week. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday during his weekly press conference that Mendenhall's workload could increase this week, but that doesn't mean he'll play.
Mendenhall's expected absence certainly won't help the Steelers' anemic running attack, which is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry. Tomlin noted that leading rusher Jonathan Dwyer, who has 71 yards on 21 carries, has a turf toe that could limit him in practice early this week. That won't help it, either. Starting RB Isaac Redman has 45 yards on 23 carries (2.0 per run), but he does have the team's only rushing touchdown.
"Our run game offensively could highlight that area of needed improvement,'' Tomlin said. "We haven't run the ball as well as we would have liked, (but) I'm not interested in assigning blame in that regard. I'll take responsibility for it. The reality is that we've got room for growth. (So) we need to tighten up our menu and lean on the things that we're doing well.
Despite the club's issues with the running game, the offense has found success ive success because QB Ben Roethlisberger has been proficient on third down. Roethlisberger is ranked No. 1 in the NFL as a third-down passer with a gaudy 146.8 rating. He is 19-for-25 (76 percent) for 251 yards and three touchdowns.
With Roethlisberger's passing, the Steelers' time of possession was 36:36 Sunday against the New York Jets. That total included an incredible 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive in 10:13 that ended with the the Steelers final score. But even that success didn't temper Tomlin's view of his club's running game.
"I'm looking for more than that, obviously,'' Tomlin said. "We were able to run the ball and possess the ball (in that final drive). I think we ran it six or seven times for right around 30 yards, but that's not what I'm looking for. I'm actually looking for better than that.''
Other injured players that Tomlin mentioned this week are right T Marcus Gilbert (right groin strain), TE Heath Miller (rib cartilage separation) and LB Stevenson Sylvester (knee). Sylvester has not even practiced this season, but Tomlin said he is moving closer to game readiness and will practice this week to see how his body responds to that work.
Follow Dale Grdnic on Twitter for real-time updates on the Steelers @CBSSteelers.