By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s status was the primary concern for Pittsburgh Steelers fans everywhere, the club had several other players with injury problems going into the next game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.
Right offensive tackle Flozell Adams suffered a second injury to his right ankle during the recent game against the Baltimore Ravens, and veteran sub Trai Essex played most of the second half for him. While Adams praised the club’s backup offensive linemen for a yeoman’s performance this season, he was all but certain that he wouldn’t miss a down this week.
Adams, tight end Heath Miller (concussion) and safety Troy Polamalu (ankle) missed practice Wednesday. While Miller’s prognosis is sketchy, Polamalu likely will play since he hasn’t missed a game despite sitting out several practices in each of the past few weeks.
“I know this is only going to be temporary, so I’m just focused on getting back out there and working hard to get ready for the Bengals,” Adams said. “After I got treatment the past couple days, I know I’ll be ready to go on Sunday.
“(But) it’s been a good testament for our other players, guys to step right in there when guys went down, so it’s a good thing that we have a lot of players capable of doing that. It’s one of the things that’s rare that we have a lot of players, not just a few, but a lot of guys who can step in and play.”
Adams has been in the NFL 13 seasons now, so he knows that injuries are part of the game. But the type of injury bug that has hit the Steelers O-line this season is a little rougher than he’s experienced before. That’s why he doesn’t want to miss a down. Left offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu felt the same way.
“We’ve had some injured guys and some put on IR, but we’ve also had some young guys step up and play good football on the O-line,” Kemoeatu said. “And we have to continue to go out there and do our best to keep Ben standing tall.”
Miller certainly feels the same as Adams, that he would love to be able to play this week, but it’s less likely. In fact, even though Miller continually said his condition is improving, he didn’t sound overly positive.
“When I wake up in the morning, we’ll see how I feel (on game day),” Miller said. “I’ve never had a concussion before. It’s different. It’s just like you get a hard hit, but it’s getting better every day, and that’s a good thing. I only remember what I’ve seen on TV. I remember watching the end of the game.
“And I remember being excited to see (Isaac) Redman score and Troy force that fumble. So, it was a good win for our team, and we just have to move forward from here. … It’s still a little hazy, but like I’ve said I’m feeling a little better every day. And that’s a good thing.”
When asked about the fines the Ravens received, including $40,000 to inside linebacker Jameel McClain for his hit on Miller that was not penalized, the veteran tight end would not comment.
“That’s in the league’s hands,” Miller said. “I’m not going to pay attention to that. I’m just going to concentrate on getting better. (And) I hope to keep feeling better every day, and we’ll see where we’re at by the end of the week. … I saw (the replay) on TV, and it was a hard hit.
“But that’s part of the game. We play a physical game, and unfortunately you’re going to be in positions like that sometimes. Hopefully, they will happen less often than not. But it happened, and I’m just concentrating on getting better. … We’re taking our time with this, and we’ll make sure it’s completely healed when I go back.
“That’s the right thing to do,” Mille added. “I remember things, all the big plays in the game, (but) I didn’t feel anything. It didn’t hurt me, but it probably was more scary for my family to sit there while I laid on the field, not knowing what’s going on. So, it definitely was more difficult for them. They were watching at home.”
While it certainly would enhance the Steelers chances for a win if Miller plays, at least they have veteran tight end Matt Spaeth returning from a concussion he suffered against the Oakland Raiders. Spaeth missed the past two games.
“I don’t know if Heath’s officially out or whatever, questionable, but I’m excited for the opportunity,” Spaeth said. “He’s a great player, and he’s tough to replace, but a guy in my position looks forward to every opportunity we get. I believe I’ve done some good things as a backup, and I’ve been able to make some plays when I’ve been in there for Heath.
“So, I’ll try to do the same this week. (I played for him) a couple times, and I thought I did real well. I think I performed real well the last couple times when I was out there by myself. So, I’m looking forward to coming through again for our team. It was a scary hit. You see it on TV, but you can’t think about it.
“Even after you come back from a concussion, you can’t think about it,” Spaeth added. “Once I get out there, I think I’ll be fine. So, this week is big for me to get (to) practice, especially Thursday when we put pads on, to get some hitting and banging and seeing how I react to it. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Spaeth will be joined by second-year pro David Johnson, who primarily has been the No. 3 tight end and used as a blocking fullback when the Steelers go to certain formations. But Johnson caught three passes in three attempts for 37 yards with a long catch for 25 yards.
Notes: The Bengals have some injuries as well, as CB Brandon Ghee (groin) is out this week, while TE Jermaine Gresham (day off), CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle), OG Nate Livings (ankle) and RB Bernard Scott (illness) did not practice Wednesday. … Also, WR Terrell Owens (knee) and DT Pat Sims (knee) were limited. … And RB Isaac Redman (ankle) was limited for the Steelers.