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Loss of LB Harrison shuffles Steelers lineup

10/4/2011

Steelers linebacker James Harrison will miss "a number of weeks" after having eye surgery, coach Mike Tomlin announced at his news conference.

This is a major setback for Pittsburgh's inconsistent pass rush and will require the defense to shuffle its lineup. With backup Jason Worilds out with a quadriceps injury, starting inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons will move to Harrison's spot on the outside and Larry Foote will start at inside linebacker.

Harrison, a four-time Pro Bowl player, has a right orbital fracture around his eye socket and will have surgery Wednesday.

There is a chance that Harrison could be back in three weeks. As AFC West blogger Bill Williamson pointed out, Raiders running back Darren McFadden missed 18 days of practice in this year's training camp when he fractured an orbital bone. And McFadden hasn't shown any long-term effects.

If this timetable is right for Harrison, the Steelers would have him back when they play the New England Patriots and Tom Brady on Oct. 30.

According to ESPN.com injury expert Stephania Bell, a study showed the average time to return from this type of injury to be 25 days, although there are many variables. Bell said the Steelers could expect Harrison to out at least four weeks.

Where the Steelers will miss the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year the most is getting to the quarterback. Pittsburgh is already having trouble with its pass rush with seven sacks in four games, which is tied for the ninth-fewest in the NFL.

Not only will the Steelers lose Harrison's sack production (three straight seasons of double-digit sacks), but offenses will now turn their attention -- and double-teams -- to LaMarr Woodley.