Steelers Notebook: Polamalu plays what-if game
Friday, September 22, 2006
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If Troy Polamalu had a healthy right shoulder, perhaps the Steelers would be unbeaten and not 1-1 heading into the playoff rematch Sunday with the Cincinnati Bengals.
If nothing else, if Polamalu had more range of motion in his arm, perhaps the Steelers would not have endured their first shutout in almost three years in Jacksonville.
Polamalu nearly intercepted a quick Byron Leftwich pass in the left flat Monday night when the Jaguars, leading, 3-0, had the ball at their 13. But Polamalu, a two-time Pro Bowl safety, dropped the ball, and the Jaguars went down the field and added another field goal.
"I reached out there with my right arm," Polamalu said. "If I would have had three or four more inches, which I probably could have if [I were] healthy ... who knows if I would have even caught the ball anyway. It's time to move on."
Polamalu's right shoulder was injured in the season opener against the Miami Dolphins and is listed as questionable on the injury report. He has practiced each of the past two days, however, and will play against the Bengals.
Coach Bill Cowher said Polamalu is not at risk of doing further damage to his shoulder by playing in games and should benefit from the open date after the game against the Bengals.
"The biggest thing is, I've always tried to differentiate between a guy playing hurt and a guy playing injured," Cowher said. "Someone who's injured, if [there is] risk of further damage, then we certainly weigh that. We would not subject a player to doing something that could have long-term effects.
"What Troy is dealing with right now is something that's going to get better with time. But he's having to play with some pain."
Polamalu tried to downplay the significance of the injury, but acknowledged it made it difficult to tackle Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, who had 92 yards on 22 carries against the Steelers.
"When you're injured, with any injury, definitely you're restricted in some way. There's a lot of people playing with pain and injuries on this team that I'm sure you guys don't even know about. And, if it were up to me, you guys wouldn't even know about this injury. But, unfortunately, it's that obvious.
"It's tough to let my arm hang, in general. If walking is tough, tackling Fred Taylor or any running back for that matter is always going to be tough. I'm just one of 11 guys on this defense. It doesn't matter. It's one arm of 22."
Foot injury hampers Holmes
Rookie wide receiver Santonio Holmes did not practice for the second day in a row because of inflammation on the arch of his foot and will not play against the Bengals if he doesn't practice today.
Cowher said Holmes does not have a stress fracture, but he is unable to cut and push off when he runs. If Holmes doesn't play, Cowher said No. 3 draft pick Willie Reid will be active for the first time this season and likely will return kickoffs and punts along with Ricardo Colclough.
"I can run straight ahead, but to cut side to side, that's the biggest thing," Holmes said.
Holmes, the team's No. 1 pick from Ohio State, said he doesn't know when he was injured against the Jaguars, though he remembers his foot getting stepped on in the game. He said his foot didn't start bothering him until Wednesday when he reported back to practice.
"I didn't come to the training room on Tuesday," Holmes said. "I didn't have any problems."
Mutual admiration society
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer doesn't have a vote, but, if he did, he said Polamalu would be the NFL's defensive player of the year.
"In my eyes, he's the best defensive player in the game," said Palmer.
"He's more than just the best safety. He's the best defensive football player. He consistently makes plays. He leads that defense by example. He's a lot of fun to watch and not a lot of fun to play against."
Told what Palmer said, Polamalu replied, "He's probably the best offensive player in the league."
Polamalu and Palmer were housemates when they played together at Southern California, and they periodically talk by phone, even in the offseason. When a Pittsburgh reporter visited Palmer last month, he jokingly said, "Tell Troy to return my call."
"I called him to check on him a couple times this summer," Polamalu said. "I'm a hermit. The only person I talk to is my wife."