ShareThis Page

Polamalu inches toward return for Steelers

| Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009

A forced bystander during the four-game losing streak that has imperiled the Steelers' playoff chances, strong safety Troy Polamalu said he probably could have returned by now from the knee injury that has sidelined him since the middle of November.

But, Polamalu added Tuesday, "I don't think I would be a help at all to our team with my current condition. I think if I really felt like I could help this team out, I would be out there playing."

Polamalu didn't practice yesterday because of the strained posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his left knee, and he is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game Thursday night when the Steelers visit the Browns.

With the extra rest the Steelers will get by playing on a weekday, Polamalu and the Steelers could target the Dec. 20 game against the Green Bay Packers as the return date for the five-time Pro Bowler.

And of the knee he reinjured in the Steelers' 18-12 loss to the Bengals last month, Polamalu said, "With time, it is getting better."

What hasn't gotten better as the season has progressed is the defense's play in the fourth quarter of games.

A simple connecting of the dots makes it easy to see why Polamalu's absence — the seventh-year veteran has played in just three full games because of two separate knee injuries — has been linked to the Steelers' inability to close out opposing teams.

Coach Mike Tomlin has said the Steelers have squandered fourth-quarter leads in five of their six losses because they are simply not making enough plays defensively. Polamalu, meanwhile, is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL.

He leads the Steelers in interceptions (three) despite missing roughly two-thirds of the season.

"Obviously, not having Troy puts us at a disadvantage," free safety Ryan Clark said.

Polamalu offered some insight yesterday into how the Steelers' defense is different without him.

He also talked about how his unorthodox style of play makes it difficult for players such as Clark and Tyrone Carter when either is paired with a more conventional safety.

"I always have my own agenda, and they have to react to my agenda," said Polamalu, who is given the freedom by the Steelers to line up all over the field. "When I'm in there with T.C., he knows that I'm going to do whatever I have to do, and he's going to react as well as Ryan. When you have two guys out there playing with someone that doesn't have my mentality, that can shake things up a little bit."

Shake things up is an apt description of what Polamalu tries to do to opposing quarterbacks by moving around before the snap.

"I think the freedom I have to do that creates maybe a little bit of indecision," Polamalu said. "I think when another safety is put in as the strong safety, I think the fans may expect a certain level from them, but coaches kind of constrict them a little bit."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.