The Steelers are expected to have their projected starting defense on the field Sunday against Philadelphia, marking the first time since the opener last year in Baltimore that will have happened.
Head coach Mike Tomlin listed neither Troy Polamalu or James Harrison on the team's injury list and expects both to play Sunday against the Eagles.
The Steelers had their starting 11 on the field together just once in 2011 for the first game against Baltimore. Cornerback Bryant McFadden was among that group, but was injured in that game.
You could argue that McFadden wasn't a starter - since he couldn't get on the field after his return - but even at that, the Steelers lost defensive end Brett Keisel the following week against Seattle.
The next guys to go down were Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Harrison at Houston. Smith was lost for the season - and his career - while Hampton missed three games and Harrison four.
By the time Harrison returned to play against Baltimore Nov. 11, fellow linebacker LaMarr Woodley was out of the lineup, having suffered a hamstring injury the previous week in a win over New England.
What does all of this mean?
We really haven't seen the Pittsburgh defense at its projected full strength in quite some time.
That's all part of the game as players age - they become more injury prone - but it will be interesting to see if the troubles the Steelers have had closing out games the past two seasons are solved by having a defense at full strength - or at least as close to it as they have been in some time.
Ziggy Hood has taken over on a full-time basis for Smith and isn't of Smith's caliber, at least not at this point in his career.
Though the Steelers haven't blamed injuries for their issues, it has certainly been pointed to by many, including myself, as a reason for some of their problems.
@ The only player Tomlin listed on his injury report was offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, who is expected to return to practice today despite a groin injury.