Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, who missed four of the final six regular-season games with a knee injury, is running out of time to convince the coaches he can play tomorrow in a wild-card playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That was the declaration of coach Mike Tomlin after Polamalu missed practice yesterday for the second day in a row. Tomlin said Polamalu will attempt to practice today to determine if he can play against the Jaguars.
"It's going to be a big day," Tomlin said. "Everyone is in agreement Troy needs to practice tomorrow."
Tomlin said the same is true for return specialist Allen Rossum (hamstring), who has not practiced since missing the regular-season finale Sunday in Baltimore. Tomlin said Rossum also will try to practice today, though it's possible he might be limited to just light running.
"It's getting close," Tomlin said. "Those guys are running out of time in terms of showing they are capable of contributing."
Polamalu, who was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl despite missing five games, sprained the medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee earlier this season.
His knee developed swelling after he played against the Jaguars Dec. 16 and the St. Louis Rams Dec. 20. The injury causes a problem when Polamalu tries to accelerate.
If Rossum can't play -- his status won't be determined until tomorrow morning -- it is possible running back Najeh Davenport could return kickoffs against the Jaguars. Wide receiver Willie Reid handled kick returns against the Ravens, but he fumbled two of his first three returns (one was overturned by replay challenge) before aggravating a shoulder sprain. Reid practiced on a limited basis yesterday and is expected to play.
"It's time to leave it all out there," Tomlin said.
"We're not going to save any nuts. We're not going to squirrel them. We're going to be ready to play. No job is too small this week."
Wide receiver Hines Ward (knee), cornerback Deshea Townsend (foot) and cornerback Bryant McFadden (ankle) returned to practice yesterday and are expected to play.
Ward was held out of the game Sunday in Baltimore, the fifth this season he and Santonio Holmes did not play together.
"That's a plus," said Ward, who will be appearing in his 11th playoff game, tied for most on the team with four other players. "Who is really 100 percent healthy right now? It's late in the year and it's the playoffs. There is no tomorrow. That's what makes the magnitude of the playoffs even greater. I'm excited. I look forward to playing in the playoffs."
McFadden, the team's nickel back, missed three games earlier in the season with a high-ankle sprain on his right foot. But he said he injured his other ankle when he resumed playing because he was trying to favor his right ankle.
The left ankle is the one he aggravated against the Ravens, so the injury is not as serious.
Steelers chairman Dan Rooney will be autographing copies of his new book, "Dan Rooney: My 75 Years With the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL," at 7 p.m. Thursday at Border's, 1775 No. Highland Rd.