Steelers Notebook: Knee injury to sideline Polamalu

All-Pro saftey could miss from three to six weeks


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Safety Troy Polamalu is expected to miss anywhere from three to six weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, which forced him from last night's game just before halftime and sent him, in street clothes, to a hospital for further tests.

"They are reading the scans and so forth," coach Mike Tomlin said early this morning. "Those things have a [recuperation] range of three to six [weeks]. It is speculation at this point. I'm sure there is a possibility, but I don't have any concrete evidence that there is anything more than that."

Polamalu ended an up-and-down first half -- a one-handed interception sandwiched between two 15-yard penalties -- by slowly coming off the field of a tie score that the Steelers ultimately won without him in overtime, 13-10. He apparently hurt the knee in a scrum while chasing a blocked Tennessee field goal. Soon after, he walked off the field, without assistance and without a detectable limp, and went into the Steelers' locker room with 1:15 left in the first half. Tyrone Carter replaced him at strong safety.

"Nobody on this team is Troy," safety Ryan Clark said. "For a guy of his caliber, more of his character, to go down is unfortunate. You just pray he's better soon."

While Polamalu finished with six first-half tackles -- enough to rank him third on the Steelers' final stats on the game -- Carter had an assist in relief.

Kickin' it

What a night for Steelers kickers past and present!

Tennessee's Rob Bironas, a 2004 Steelers camp washout, went wide right with a 37-yard attempt in the first quarter, had a 31-yarder blocked -- the one in which Polamalu was injured -- and then converted a 45-yard attempt to give the Titans a 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The rest of the night, though, belonged to the Steelers' Jeff Reed.

At the end of the next possession after Bironas gave Tennessee the lead, Reed capped a 12-play, 56-yard, 8:06-long drive with a 32-yarder to tie the score. But even Reed had a little trouble. His left, plant foot slipped a bit while delivering that tying field goal into the Allegheny River end of Heinz Field. Yet Reed got enough of that kick to knuckle it through the uprights.

Barely 41/2 minutes into overtime, Reed kicked the winner -- his ninth career and his third in overtime, including one to beat the Jets in the 2004 season playoffs.

"This is my eighth year here," Reed said. "We've been in a lot of close games. And we win a lot of them."

To think that less than a week ago, his agent was steadfastly refusing one last contract offer from the Steelers before the regular-season began.

Rookie unveiling

For his first NFL game, Mike Wallace got open on a first-half pass route that surprised everyone in the building, including him. Then he finished with the 22-yard catch that set up Reed's winner.

"I was just nervous, just hoping I make some plays and not mess up," said Wallace, a third-round draftee from Mississippi. "I'm happy that Ben [Roethlisberger] threw it to me. I just made a play when it came my way."

Wallace beat his defender in the first half, but Roethlisberger under-threw the fleet receiver. "It caught me off guard, just to see how wide open I was," said Wallace, who finished with three catches for 32 yards. "I'm sure it caught everybody off guard."

Inactives

One thing was certain: the Steelers were heavy in new backup players.

Only two offensive linemen were suited up as reserves, center-guard Doug Legursky and tackle-guard Ramon Foster, first-year and rookie free agents, respectively. At wide receiver, Wallace and second-year veteran Limas Sweed were the backups, though returner Stefan Logan was also listed at the position. On defense, 2009 first-round pick Ziggy Hood was a backup at end, rookie Keenan Lewis at cornerback and first-year veteran Ryan Mundy at safety.

Scratched for the Steelers were offensive linemen Kraig Urbik and Tony Hills; veteran receiver Shaun McDonald; cornerbacks Keiwan Ratliff and Joe Burnett; veteran defensive end Nick Eason; injured linebacker Lawrence Timmons (high ankle sprain); with Dennis Dixon the third quarterback.

Inactives for the Titans: cornerback Ryan Mouton; running back Chris Henry; offensive lineman Troy Kropog; receiver Lavelle Hawkins; tight end Jared Cook; and defensive linemen Sen'Derrick Marks and Dave Ball; with Patrick Ramsey the third quarterback.

Another family

Former Steelers wide receiver Nate Washington had the rare change of playing his first game since leaving Pittsburgh against his former team, where he played his first four seasons. "The team we played tonight, that's more than a team to me, it's a family," Washington said. "You go out there and you are going against guys who were your brothers. They taught me the game." Washington, who came into the game with injured ribs, played sparingly. He caught one pass for 8 yards. "It was tough seeing them before the game, but I saw them smiling, and that made me feel good" Washington said. "I was proud of wearing the black and gold, but I'm proud of the colors I wear now. We just need to get better."

More pressure needed

The Titans sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger four times last night, but only once in the second half. And he made them pay. Roethlisberger was 18-for-22 passing for 183 yards in the second half and led the Steelers to their only scored -- two field goals -- in the fourth quarter and overtime. "They didn't change protections in the second half," Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "We kept coming with our four-man rush and we pride ourselves on getting there." The Titans harried Roethlisberger several times during the game and nearly sacked him on a first-and-10 play from their 37 during the overtime, but Roethlisberger managed to get rid of the ball for an incompletion. "He's a physical guy and does a great job," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of Roethlisberger. "Things break down, but he breaks tackles and makes plays. You give him enough opportunities, and he's going to make plays."

Quick hits

• The crowd of 65,110 constituted the largest in team history for a Steelers regular-season game and the third-highest overall, including playoffs.

• Roethlisberger became the second all-time Steelers quarterback in terms of completions, with his 1,192nd early in the game eclipsing Kordell Stewart. Roethlisberger also became the only franchise quarterback besides Terry Bradshaw to eclipse 15,000 yards passing.

• On his first carry of the second half, Willie Parker surpassed 5,000 yards with the Steelers. Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis each have more than 10,000, the only ones ahead of him.

Rod Woodson was honored at halftime, when he received his Hall of Fame ring, and in the afternoon, when Steelers officials unveiled his ceremonial locker in the Coca-Cola Great Hall -- something they do for Steelers enshrined in Canton. Woodson's locker contained his No. 26 jersey from 1987-96 and, among other mementos, the infamous "Steelers Digest" cover photograph of him wearing a Superman costume.

• Right tackle Willie Colon, whose mother suffers from lupus, is the spokesman and headliner for the 14th annual Lupus Loop 5K -- a run, walk, skate and "dog jog" tomorrow around Heinz Field. Registration is 8:30 a.m., with proceeds benefiting local patients and Lupus Foundation services.


Jerry Micco contributed to this story. Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com .


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