By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have been plagued by injuries from the outset this season, and it appears that trend won’t end anytime soon with safety Troy Polamalu and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert expected to be out for extended periods, according to teammates.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered several serious injuries last season but missed just one game, left Thursday’s practice early with a right ankle injury. He immediately elevated and iced the ankle and then told reporters that he would be fine.
Center Maurkice Pouncey, who wore a brace on his sore right knee, was hopeful. Pouncey, along with several other teammates, did not know how Roethlisberger was injured, if a lineman stepped on him or he slipped.
“I don’t know how he did it, but I went in there (the training room) and gave him a little massage,” Pouncey said. “That’s going to help him out. … I feel pretty good right now, but we’ll see how the knee is (Friday) morning. If it’s OK, I’ll practice again and probably play. I hope I’ll play.”
Polamalu has a torn right calf muscle and left part of his leg is colored various shades of purple. Gilbert suffered an ankle injury that forced the club to send him to a specialist in Charlotte. He told Pouncey that the injury didn’t need surgery and probably wasn’t season-ending, but it could take up to six weeks to heal.
Pouncey, the Steelers’ two-time Pro Bowl center, practiced Thursday with a brace on his ailing right knee and hoped to play when the Steelers (2-3) face the Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) Sunday at 8:20 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Sure, I want to get out there as much as the next guy, but I don’t want to rush it back and have a setback,” Pouncey said. “I want to be smart about it, and if I do play I’ll have a brace on it. I’ve tried to move around a little bit so far this week. I ran a little bit in the pool (Wednesday) and practiced (Thursday). And we’ll see how I feel (Friday).”
Rookie second-round pick Mike Adams will replace Gilbert at right tackle, while veteran Will Allen is expected to take Polamalu’s spot in the secondary for the second straight week. Ryan Muddy replaced Polamalu for the previous two games that he missed earlier this season.
“I felt really good, better than I felt in a while,” Polamalu said when asked if he came back too soon. “(But) the body always compensates from the ground up. If the left toe hurts, it will compensate maybe to the right ankle or calf to the left knee to the right hip, all the way up your body. … That’s basic sports physiology.”
Along with Gilbert and Polamalu, linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) also has been listed as out this week. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin listed running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) as questionable, but the answer appears to be no. Neither is likely to play.
Linebackers Stevenson Sylvester (AC sprain in right shoulder) and Brandon Johnson (hamstring) also are questionable, but the pair joined Lawrence Timmons (foot) as full participants in practice after missing Wednesday.
There wasn’t just gloom and doom from the Steelers this week, although there was a lot of sniping from players and media alike, but linebacker Lamar Woodley had a reason to be bright. It appears that Woodley’s hamstring injury was not serious, and he should play this week.
“It’s not the same leg I injured last year, and it’s definitely not as severe,” Woodley said after two good practice sessions this week. “I feel pretty good right now. I’m rehabbing and doing everything I need to do, so I expect to play against the Bengals. As of right now, I’m going to play.”
The Steelers have a final practice Friday morning and a walk-through Saturday before leaving for Cincinnati.