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Steelers not ruling out Polamalu against Panthers

Steelers tight end Heath Miller is expected to play Thursday night against the visiting Carolina Panthers.

The Steelers, meanwhile, are keeping an open mind about strong safety Troy Polamalu returning to action against the Panthers.

Polamalu didn't play in the Steelers' 22-17 loss to the New York Jets yesterday after aggravating what coach Mike Tomlin has called a “lower leg injury.”

Polamalu, who leads the Steelers with six interceptions, arrived at the team's practice facility this morning shortly before 11 and did not appear to be limping. What doesn't bode well for Polamalu playing Thursday is the short week that precedes the Steelers' final regular-season home game.
Tomorrow will be the only day that the Steelers practice before playing the 2-12 Panthers at Heinz Field.

“It's still early in the week in terms of where (Polamalu) is, his availability to practice and ultimately to play,” Tomlin said today at his weekly news conference.

In regard to Miller, who has missed the last two games after experiencing post-concussion symptoms, Tomlin said, “We anticipate Heath being fine.”

Defensive end Aaron Smith will take another significant step this week in his recovery from a partially torn triceps.

Smith will be fitted for a shoulder brace this week, and the 12th-year veteran could start doing some football-related activities.

The Steelers (10-4) clinched a playoff berth yesterday despite the loss to the Jets.

The Steelers can clinch the AFC North title with a win over the Panthers and a Ravens loss to the Browns Sunday in Cleveland.

“We're excited about being assured of an opportunity to advance into the playoffs,” Tomlin said. “I don't like how it unfolded. You feel like you're crawling in on your belly but we've got two weeks to do something about that. I still think a division title is within our sights but it all starts with playing good, winning football Thursday night.”

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