By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Since the Pittsburgh Steelers likely will be without outside linebacker James Harrison and strong safety Troy Polamalu again this week, their two biggest impact players on defense, Polamalu was asked which one will be missed the most.
“With all due respect to my brother (Ryan Clark), I think James Harrison is the ultimate NFL enforcer,” Polamalu said. “Ryan obviously has a tremendous presence on the football field, as well as James does. In fact, there’s a lot of guys on our defense who have that presence.”
Polamalu quickly listed reasons why Clark has been so successful the past few seasons, but he would not speculate if last year’s leading tackler with the Steelers would have received more Pro Bowl selections if Polamalu wasn’t here.
“He studies a lot of film,” Polamalu said. “He has a great sense for our defense. He’s a natural leader. He’s very vocal, and he’s an awesome football player. I don’t like to speculate, but I’m very thankful that we have Ryan on our team.
“He and Ryan (Mundy) play very differently, as well as Mundy and I do. But we all have a great sense for each other when we play. Ryan Clark and I have so much experience together that we really work well together, but it’s also really fun to watch him play when I’m on the sideline.”
Polamalu also was asked if the Steelers have gotten better while playing without he and Harrison this season.
“I don’t know, but we have a lot of young guys who are really stepping up,” Polamalu said. “Chris Carter has been playing great for James, but it’s all about getting your job done and then helping out any way that you can.
“That’s the key, I think, to get your own job done and also shore up any deficiencies in any way that you can. I believe that’s the way a defense can be successful in this league, and it’s what we’re able to do.”
With Polamalu and Harrison again sitting out the entire practice Thursday and unlikely to practice Friday or play Sunday, Clark’s responsibilities should increase. But that’s OK with Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
“His work ethic, overall intelligence and conditioning,” LeBeau said when asked what makes Clark so good. “He pretty much is a consummate pro, and he approaches his job like he’s going to work. He brings his lunch bucket with him, He’s going to give you a good, honest day, and he almost always plays well.”
Along with Harrison (left knee) and Polamalu (strained right calf), tight end Heath Miller (abdomen) did not practice Thursday for the Steelers. Miller said he didn’t want to wear a flak jacket for protection, so it sounded like he expected to play. Rookie offensive tackle Mike Adams (back) and backup quarterback Byron Leftwich (illness) also did not practice.
Running back Jonathan Dwyer (turf toe), right offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (groin) and wideouts Mike Wallace (groin) and Emmanuel Sanders (knee) — who did not practice Wednesday — returned to practice Thursday. Running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) has continued to increase his workload in practice and is getting closer to playing. Inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee) was limited Wednesday, but practiced on a full-time basis Thursday.
Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons said he was fined $21,000 for his hit on New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez last Sunday. Timmons received a 15-yard penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked Sanchez for a loop. This was a $20,000 fine last year, but the cash amount was raised five percent this year. … LeBeau said Steelers could use Big Nickel package again this week with four down linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs. This would allow them to keep their base defense on the field. … The club also could use a Penny defense with three cornerbacks and a safety to get a better matchup against an offense that uses three wideouts.