James Harrison (with Ben Roethlisberger) hasn’t played in a game since January. (Gene J. Puskar / AP)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to have two of the stalwarts of their defense back Sunday when they play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Both Troy Polamalu and James Harrison are expected to play, Coach Mike Tomlin said (via Steelers.com) today. Polamalu has missed two games with a strained calf; Harrison has yet to play this season after having knee surgery in August. Both players practiced Monday when the Steelers returned from their bye week.

“Based on what I am looking at on how we worked yesterday I think that is a safe assessment [they will play],” Tomlin said. “We will watch these guys as we proceed throughout the week. All guys have performed well and were able to get through practice and we’re optimistic that they’re going to be full participants.”

On offense, running back Rashard Mendenhall should be playing for the first time since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the 2011 season finale.

“We’ll see what happens, but it’s been a while since we’ve all been on the field together,” Polamalu said Monday. “There are some other new faces out there who have been permanent starters, so it’s all about how well 11 guys mesh on our defense.”

They’d better mesh quickly. The Steelers do not want to start the season 1-3.

“It’s a big game. It’s no secret it’s a big game,” Isaac Redman said (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “There’s no way we can come back [after a week off and go] 1-3. We’re going to take it a lot more serious this week and hunker down.”

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