The Steelers injury report came out today and it has two All Pro defenders on it-- James Harrison (knee) and Troy Polamalu (calf). Both of these players are integral parts of the Steelers defense and leave gaping holes to fill.
Their absence doesn't exactly give the Raiders an advantage but more accurately perhaps gives the Steelers somewhat less of an advantage. But it is just the type of help the Raiders need if they are to have a shot at staying in this game and perhaps coming away with a win.
Polamalu started the Steelers season opener against the Denver Broncos and went out with a knee injury. Last week, the Steelers beat the Jets without Polamalu but the last time they were without him, back in 2010, they lost to these same Jets. In 2009, the Steelers went 9-7 and each every one of their losses was without Polamalu including a five game losing streak immediately after he was lost for the season.
Harrison is the Steelers' best pass rusher. He has had double digit sacks in all but one season since 2008 and that was last season when he had 9.0 sacks in 11 games. However, the Steelers won every game he missed in the 2011 season so for some reason they do ok without him in the lineup.
Taking Harrison's place at outside linebacker will be Chris Carter. Carter has started the first two games for Harrison and has no sacks and just two combined tackles. That is a steep dropoff from the production Harrison offers this team.
Polamalu's free safety position will be manned by another of the Steelers' 2009 draft picks-- round six pick, Ryan Mundy. This will be just Mundy's fourth start in the NFL. He had one interception, 6 passes defended and 39 tackles over three full seasons in the NFL. Through two games this season he has had just one pass defended and 6 tackles.
Also out for Sunday's game for the Steelers are reserve linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee). Mendenhall's absence is a big reason why the Steelers rank 30th in the league in rushing. His replacement, Isaac Redman, has not been able to overcome some poor blocking by the offensive line and has managed just 2.0 yards per carry.