By Dale Grdnic
While Troy Polamalu did not practice Tuesday afternoon, he didn’t rule himself out for this week and certainly could still return for the finale at Cleveland.
“I feel better from last week,” Polamalu said. “So, I’m optimistic about playing either this week or next week. I guess it’s more likely next week, but as always the final decision is up to Coach Tomlin.”
Ryan Mundy started for Polamalu at strong safety, but tight end Heath Miller was back in his starting spot and is expected to play Thursday night.
“I’d be excited to get back out there, so hopefully everything will go well the next couple days,” Miller said. “If everything goes well, I’ll be ready to roll. We just decided that I wasn’t ready to go last week, but I’m better this week.”
Miller suffered from headaches Thursday after practicing last Wednesday, but he feels better this week. And if he passes a final concussion test, he’ll play.
“You want to go back to feeling normal, so you have to take precautions to get there,” Miller said. “I have to see what the doctors say tomorrow. It’s an issue that has to be taken seriously, and I certainly take it seriously. This was my first concussion, so I didn’t know what to expect. We’ll see what happens.”
Miller plans to play Thursday, but the Steelers aren’t likely to get Aaron Smith back until the playoffs. So, a first-round bye certainly would benefit his chances to return for the post-season.
“It’s really up to the doctors and how things have healed up and how things go, but I guess optimistic is a good term,” Smith said. “We have another scan to see how things are going since the last one (a week ago). I have one scheduled next week. (But) I feel great, further along than any of my other injuries at this point, but it all matters on how my body has healed and how fast I can do it.
“I don’t know when or how, but when they tell me my body has healed up enough for me to go out there and play football I’ll do it. And it’s coming along good. Anytime you have an injury, you’re not going to get to your previous point right away, but it’s getting better. The muscle’s already there, but you just have to retrain it. I’m lifting weights, not as much, but I’m lifting.
“(And) it should come back quickly,” Smith added. “(And) when the time comes, we’ll all sit down and see where I’m at and if it benefits the team for me to play. (So), when it’s safe for me to play, I’ll go out there. But Ziggy’s playing real well. It’s a tough transition to go from playing 15 snaps to starting and playing 60, but he’s handled it well, especially for how young he is.”
Wideout Hines Ward was not as active in the last game with just three passes thrown his way, two catches for 34 yards and not shots when the Steelers were in the red zone. Ward had the following comment when asked about it.
“As players, we just play the game,” Ward noted. “And if I give an opinion, it’s Hines said this and stuff like that. So, if I get the call, I just have to go out there and execute.”
Ryan Clark did not expect to be fined for his hit on Braylon Edwards Sunday.
“There’s a picture of (the hit) in our hallway,” Clark said. “So, if I do get one, I’m going to hold the picture up next to my face, and hopefully the NFL can see that my head is (in the guy’s chest). … All we can do is keep playing, and 10 out of 10 times I probably would do the same thing.
“If I get the opportunity this week, I could run up to him and give him a hug or wait for him to get on the ground so I can jump on his back, but that’s not going to give me an opportunity to dislodge the ball. Obviously, he caught it that time, but that gave me more of an opportunity to make a play. I didn’t hit him in the helmet, and there wasn’t any head-to-head contact.
“My arms, actually, were in front of me,” Clark added. “And if I can’t do that, I can’t play football. Maybe I’ll coach or drive a bus, not broadcasting. … I would be too controversial. (And) I’m not expecting that envelope, and if I get it I’m going to be pissed off. I already give to charity a lot, and they’re ones I want to give to. This isn’t the same thing.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wore his against the Jets despite a snowstorm, occasionally heavy, throughout the game.
“It wasn’t as bad as it was during the rain (the previous week), even when it was coming down pretty hard,” Roethlisberger said. “So, I’m going to stick with it. They said it’s going to take five weeks to heal, so I need it the rest of the season. (And) the gloves, the balls already are slippery, so I’ll use them, too.’
The Steelers can clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye with a win against Carolina and a Baltimore loss at Cleveland Sunday.