By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin basically said the team likely will err on the side of caution and rest injured defensive players Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley this week, although there is a chance that Woodley could play against the Tennessee Titans Thursday night in Nashville.
“Troy Polamalu re-injured his right calf. He probably will be deemed out this week,” Tomlin said Monday during his weekly press conference. “The week itself is a quick turnaround, but also due to the nature of the injury, so we will evaluate him when we get back from Tennessee.
“We don’t think he’ll participate. A similar thing can be said for LaMarr Woodley. There is more optimism to where he is (with) a mild hamstring injury, if there is such a thing. It’s still a hamstring injury. We’re in the early portions of the season (and) have to be smart in terms of how we deal with that. A short week minimizes his opportunity to play, but we’ll leave the door ajar for him.”
Tomlin also recognized that the Titans, at 1-4, were off to a slow start. But he believed that made them dangerous to play at home after road losses.
“They had a big victory against the Detroit Lions, (but) we’re a 2-2 team that has yet to win on the road,” Tomlin said. “This is a big game for us as well for similar reasons. They’re getting back in their comfort zone.
“(It’s a place) where they won the last time they played. … If we’re going to be a competitive type of team, (which) we aspire to be, we have to go into hostile environments and do the job. We haven’t done that. Thursday night in Nashville, we anticipate it to be hostile. We anticipate a certain level of urgency coming from these guys.”
Before this season, Tomlin co-chaired a project for concussion awareness called “Don’t hit the head — Don’t use the head,” and the veteran coach discussed the reasons against helmet-to-helmet hits by NFL players.
Tomlin refused to publicly discuss two such shots — by safeties Ryan Clark and Ryan Mundy — that occurred during a third-quarter touchdown drive by the Eagles. Clark clocked tight end Brent Celek, while Mundy nailed wideout Jeremy Maclin later in the drive. The two 15-yard penalties kept the scoring drive alive.
“We’re not going to dispute calls,” Tomlin said. “Those guys are trying to do the best that they can, particularly in light of the emphasis that we have in today’s NFL regarding player safety. Just know that we’re trying to play our very best to play within the rules, and it’s just as disappointing to us when we don’t. We have a desire to play within the rules.
“We’ve also got a desire to increase our chances of winning, and when you’re picking up 30 yards of penalties in one drive that’s going to give people an opportunity to score. So, obviously, we’re trying to rectify those things. We’re less concerned with judgments and interpretations and more concerned about playing in a manner that the flags stay in the pocket.”
Tomlin quickly dismissed a followup question.
“I’m not getting into that,” he said. “Give me a new one. Next question. … We’re no different from anybody else in the National Football League in regard to dealing with some of the penalties that we’re talking about.
“We had an opportunity to sit out last week (bye) and I saw similar things from other teams. So, we’ll continue to do the best that we can and understand that we have a high level of respect for how the game needs to be played today.”
His answer to Harrison’s comment after the game that he pulled up, instead of drilling Vick and possibly getting fined was curt. When questioned about Mundy’s hit, Tomlin went off a bit.
“Guys, I’m not disputing these penalties with you in here,” Tomlin said. “I’ll do it in the proper manner with the people in the league office if I have a beef. I’m not going to do it in here. That’s unprofessional, as far as I’m concerned.”
The Steelers put out a practice report, even though they didn’t work out Monday, that said Polamalu and Woodley did not practice. Harrison (knee), running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee) were limited.