The Steelers have a plan when to play all of their injured players and it involves their early bye in the fourth week of the season.
The plan is that none of their questionable players will play until they return for the fifth week, when they resume with a game against Philadelphia Oct. 7 at home. That is when James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Rashard Mendenhall and one or two others who have been out are most likely to return.
Harrison and Polamalu missed another practice on Thursday and will not play in Oakland Sunday. Harrison has yet to play in a game, either regular season or preseason. This will be the second game that Polamalu misses. Harrison had his knee scoped Aug. 15 and it has not responded as they had hoped. Polamalu came out of the first game with a strained calf.
Mendenhall has gone through full practices the past three weeks as he comes back from a January 1 torn ACL. He has done well and he started to get some contact in practice Wednesday in pads.
Mendenhall promises that when he returns to play he will be the same runner he was before the injury.
"Just this whole process, rehabbing, going through it and taking it day by day," Mendenhall reasoned. "I'm preparing to get back to that level and nothing else. That's what my focus is."
The Steelers also could get their top backup inside linebacker, Stevenson Sylvester, back after the bye. He tore his MCL in practice before the second preseason game and has not played.
The Steelers lost rookie linebacker Sean Spence for the season to a torn ACL in the preseason. That's been an inordinate amount of injuries for the linebackers already in 2012.
"It's the game of football," Sylvester said. "The linebacker position is hard, it's hard to get away from the injuries. This year we got it a little bit but we're making a comeback."