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Polamalu's injury not considered serious

By Scott Brown
Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009

Troy Polamalu almost certainly won't play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Steelers probably couldn't have gotten much better news on the knee that the All-Pro safety re-injured earlier this week.

Polamalu strained the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the Steelers' 18-12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He sprained the medial collateral ligament in that same knee Sept. 10.

Much to the relief of the Steelers, an MRI showed that Polamalu, who left the Bengals game near the end of the first quarter, did not damage the MCL again.

Coach Mike Tomlin said Polamalu's status for the 1 p.m. game Sunday is "questionable at best," but he added that the five-time Pro Bowler's injury is not serious.

"More encouraged than I think we initially anticipated," Tomlin said Tuesday. "There is no setback in regards to his MCL. We're going to take it day by day. (The injury) doesn't appear as significant as the MCL he sustained earlier in the season."

If Polamalu doesn't play against the Chiefs (2-7), Tyrone Carter will start at strong safety.

The PCL is one of four major ligaments in the knee and it keeps the lower leg from shifting backward.

"It's much less commonly injured than the other ligaments to the knee," said Dr. Jon B. Tucker, a local orthopedic surgeon who specializes in knees and shoulders.

Tucker said there is always a concern when someone has concurrent knee injuries, as is the case with Polamalu. That Polamalu does not need surgery is a strong indication the PCL strain is a minor one.

Tucker, however, said the injuries Polamalu has to work through could limit him the rest of the season.

"I don't think this will be his best season, just because he has a lot to rehabilitate from and he relies so much on his ability to be agile and fast," said Tucker, who owns Tucker Orthopedics in Mt. Lebanon. "It's going to slow him down a little bit, but I've been surprised before. Some of these guys are just phenomenal athletic talents that they're able to do things that leave most of us just scratching our heads."

Polamalu routinely defies what seems possible on a football field, which is why he is widely considered one of the top players in the NFL at his position.

He has a team-leading three interceptions, and the Steelers have been a more opportunistic defense when Polamalu is on the field.

In the three full games he has played, the Steelers have forced eight turnovers. In the six games the seventh-year veteran has either missed or playing sparingly, the Steelers have just four takeaways.

"I'm not ready to concede that Troy's the problem in regard to us not creating turnovers," Tomlin said yesterday.

The Steelers are likely targeting their Nov. 29 game against Baltimore for Polamalu's return to the field. His rehabilitation process will include strengthening his left knee and regaining range of motion in it.

"He's in a great frame of mind," said Tomlin, who met with Polamalu on Monday. "He feels really good."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on:

Whether the Steelers should have run the ball more in their 18-12 loss to the Bengals last Sunday :

"As ugly as that game was, it was 12-12 at one point, and if we had found a way to pull that game out I probably wouldn't have fielded that question, so I focus on winning. Yeah, there's some things I would have liked to have done differently, but you don't get those opportunities. That's why you respect the process of preparing, and then you go play."

Kicker Jeff Reed not doing more to make the tackle on the last two kickoff returns for touchdowns that the Steelers have given up :

"I am not going to get down to evaluating Jeff Reed as a tackler. When it comes down to that, we've failed as a coverage unit as far as I'm concerned. I don't lose any sleep over the quality of Jeff Reed's tackles ... or tackle attempts."

Why 3-4 defenses, which the Steelers play, generally lend themselves to stronger kick coverage units on special teams :

"You have more special teams bodies when you have 3-4 personnel than when you have 4-3 personnel. Special teams is built around 230- to 250-pound men. When I was part of 4-3 defenses, you might have five or six of those guys on game day. When you play a 3-4 team, they've got eight or nine of them suited (up)."

Coach Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from New England's own 28-yard line late in a game against the Colts that it was leading at the time :

Paging Tyrone Carter
Tyrone Carter will likely start at strong safety for the injured Troy Polamalu on Sunday when the Steelers visit the Kansas City Chiefs. Carter started four games earlier this season for Polamalu when the latter was sidelined by a sprained left knee. Here is how he performed in those games:
Date Opponent Tackles INT Passes defended Sacks Forced fumbles
920 Bears 3 0 1 1 0
9/27 Bengals 3 0 0 0 0
10/4 Chargers 1 0 0 0 0
1011 Lions 3 0 0 0 1

"I wasn't surprised. I heard his comments after the game, and he made the decision that he felt like was appropriate for his team and gave his team the best chance of winning, and for that I applaud him. I always appreciate when men are bold enough to do it even when it's potentially unpopular. Obviously, Bill has the stomach to make those decisions."



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