After sitting out in Week 3, Texans running back Arian Foster appears to finally have put his lingering hamstring injury to rest.
Foster was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and should start in Week 4 against Pittsburgh. He had been hobbled by a left hamstring strain since the third game of the preseason.
"I have no issues with it anymore," Foster said after practice. "I could've played last week, but they just wanted to reassure that it wasn't going to be reoccurring.
"It's good to be back out there. I'm eager. I haven't played football that much this year, so I'm excited to get the opportunity to do so."
Foster said that he plans to play on Sunday unless "I get kidnapped or something." Texans coach Gary Kubiak expects him to play as well after the extra rest Foster got from sitting out Sunday's loss to the Saints.
"He's fine," Kubiak said. "Like I said, he should be OK heading to the rest of the season now, hopefully. We'll keep our fingers crossed, but he's chomping at the bit, ready to go, took his full load (in practice). We're OK."
Second-year running back Ben Tate has filled in capably during Foster's absence, ranking fifth in the league with 301 rushing yards. But the Texans have struggled inside the red zone without Foster, last year's NFL rushing champion who also led the league with 16 rushing touchdowns.
"It's very important," Kubiak said of Foster's return. "He's a hell of a player. We've been missing him in situations in-game, but Ben has done a hell of a job, too. But he's a key player of this football team that we've almost played a month without.
"I know it's still a long road back. Like I've said, it doesn't just go from nothing to everything. I think Arian has played 33 snaps and our other starters have played 100 this year, so… we've got to bring him along the right way, too."
Understandably so, Kubiak isn't the only one excited about Foster's return.
"I've been waiting for him to get back just like everybody else, too," Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson said. "He plays a big part in our offense, and I think having him back will be a great help for us."
Aside from helping the Texans on the ground, Foster should add another dimension to the passing game. He ranked second among all running backs last season with 66 catches.
"He's a big piece to our puzzle offensively and can do a lot of things for us, very versatile," quarterback Matt Schaub said. "We saw it last year so many times: On third downs, we'd get him the ball in space, and that first guy very rarely makes the tackle. I think if we can get him the ball in some space, he can make some yards after the catch for us and convert some of those third downs, and that'll again loosen up some coverages in other spaces because teams will be worried about him."
The Steelers have had a top-three rushing defense in each of the last seven seasons under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. They ranked first in 2010, allowing only 62.8 rushing yards per game.
Foster is looking forward to the challenge.
"They're about as good as it gets in this league," he said. "It's what you signed up for. You play the game to play against the top competition, and I'm excited, man."