The Pittsburgh Steelers probably won’t know until Friday whether safety Troy Polamalu can play in Sunday’s final regular-season game at Cleveland.
Polamalu hasn’t played or practiced for two weeks because of an injured right Achilles’ tendon. Coach Mike Tomlin said he won’t practice Wednesday or Thursday.
“Troy is improving,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “We’re going to look at him and watch him move. It’s not out of the realm of possibility he could play. If he’s healthy, he will.”
If Polamalu can’t go Friday, he won’t play against the Browns (5-10), who upset the Steelers 13-6 in Cleveland last season.
While the Steelers aren’t ruling out Polamalu, linebacker James Farrior said Monday it didn’t look good for Polamalu being ready by this weekend—despite what will be a 10-day break since Pittsburgh beat Carolina 27-3 on Thursday.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s broken nose isn’t considered a problem, even though it was bloodied by a hit in the Carolina game.
Tomlin also said running back Mewelde Moore is questionable because of a sprained right knee. Linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds have knee swelling, and cornerback Bryant McFadden has a hip injury.
While last season’s loss in Cleveland to a one-win Browns team eventually prevented the Steelers from returning to the playoffs, they didn’t know it at the time. There will be no such uncertainty this year.
While the Steelers (11-4) have secured a playoff spot, they will win the AFC North, earn a first-round bye and ensure themselves of at least one home playoff game if they beat the Browns (5-10). Should they lose in Cleveland and Baltimore (10-5) beats Cincinnati (3-12), the Ravens would win the division and the Steelers would be forced to go on the road next week for a wild-card game.
If both the Steelers and Ravens lose, Pittsburgh would win the division based on a better divisional record.
Tomlin said last season’s loss won’t necessarily prove motivational when the Steelers resume practicing Wednesday. Pittsburgh has won 13 of its last 14 against Cleveland.
“What’s at stake right now and right here is enough motivation,” he said. “We’re trying to secure the AFC North title. In order to do that, we have to go into an AFC North city and do the job—and I’m sure they’re not for us doing it. So it’s going to make it interesting and exciting.”
Woodley said the Steelers haven’t forgotten last season’s loss in Cleveland, when Roethlisberger was sacked eight times for 60 yards in losses. That loss was the Steelers’ fifth in a row, but they bounced back to win their final three and have won 14 of 18 since.
“We have to take care of Cleveland,” Woodley said. “Last year, when we played Cleveland down there, they took care of business on us. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen this year.”