Early bye weeks can be seen as disadvantageous.
After three weeks of the 2012 season, having Week 4 off is a good thing for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers took a tough 34-31 loss from the Raiders in hostile O.Co Coliseum Sunday, and the defeat was a character kind of game. It won't build it has much as it will reveal it.
And a week off for the team and the coaches to reflect upon what's been an up-and-down start to the year is just what they all need.
Some time to heal more injuries wouldn't hurt, either.
The face of this team will change at least a little bit with the possible returns of safety Troy Polamalu, linebacker James Harrison and running back Rashard Mendenhall. The face of the team will change a lot of these players are again to miss another game - Mendenhall and Harrison have missed all three and Polamalu has missed the last two.
Mendenhall should be expected to play. He was taken off the preseason PUP list and kept on the active roster as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery due to a torn ACL suffered at the end of the 2011 season. It seemed likely at the time the decision was made to keep him on the roster he'd be back after the Week 3 bye. Him being out any longer would beg the question of why he wasn't placed on the PUP list to start the year, taking advantage of an additional roster spot.
Harrison may be a little more iffy. He had arthroscopic surgery Aug. 15, and practiced before Pittsburgh's Week 1 game at Denver. His knee didn't respond well to the work, and he hasn't practiced since. Harrison, at 35, could be rested for the sake of keeping him fresh for the rest of the season, but sitting at 1-2, with two games in five days (Week 5 vs. Philadelphia, Week 6 Thursday night at Tennessee), and a sagging pass rush, the Steelers need him back as soon as he's able.
Polamalu injured his calf in Week 1, and has not practiced since. Polamalu has a history of injuries and with his increased age, it would seem sensible the Steelers would take all precautions to ensure Polamalu isn't rushed back on the field. But with a substandard performance by back-up S Ryan Mundy in Week 3, the sooner Polamalu could be back, the better.
It's difficult to gauge which direction the Steelers are heading without those players in the lineup. If it gets to the point any of them will miss significant time or even the entire season, we'd have a good idea of how the Steelers will be equipped for the remainder of the year.
Getting those players back would make the Steelers a more competitive team on both sides of the ball. But perhaps there will be a much clearer view of how this season will go if none of them are able to play in Week 5.