PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 09: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau while watching warm ups prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans on October 9, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette spoke with Steelers LB James Harrison Tuesday after the veteran, hobbled by a knee injury throughout this preseason, reported to the South Side facility for treatment.
The initial report is optimistic.
Bouchette writes Harrison gave an "A-OK" sign when asked how his knee was responding 24 hours after his first practice. That suggests all signs point toward Harrison starting in Pittsburgh's Week 1 game vs. the Denver Broncos.
His conditioning, however, may be a different story.
His knee not flaring up now, a few weeks after arthroscopic surgery, is one issue. His ability to stay on the field in the thin Denver air against what looks to be a passing offense is another. Harrison often drops into coverage, and the constant redirection and acceleration will test his cardiovascular health as much as the solidity of his knee.
There's very little time for Harrison to play his way into shape, meaning it's highly likely, if he played, his back-up Chris Carter would receive a comparable number of snaps.
Some Harrison is better than no Harrison, though, and perhaps it's even kind of a good problem to have. Carter has been working at the position all preseason, as Harrison and Jason Worilds (wrist) have both been out of commission. His conditioning will be at a higher level than Harrison's, without a doubt, so keeping a fresh edge defender could work to the Steelers' advantage.