Coach Mike Tomlin said he expects safety Troy Polamalu to practice today and play Sunday against the New York Giants, even though the coach confirmed Polamalu sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati.
"As of right now, we anticipate him playing," Tomlin said yesterday. "Tests are favorable at this point. He's slated to practice tomorrow. We'll see how he goes."
More good news for the Steelers: Nose tackle Casey Hampton and fullback Carey Davis also are expected to play against the Super Bowl champions, Tomlin said, and halfback Willie Parker will practice today and has improved since he reinjured his sprained left knee in practice Oct. 13.
The confirmation by Tomlin makes it at least seven confirmed concussions for Polamalu since his high school days, including three at Southern California and one two years ago with the Steelers.
Tomlin said he's letting his medical experts determine if Polamalu is healthy enough to play.
Polamalu was injured while tackling Cincinnati running back Cedric Benson, a play in which cornerback Bryant McFadden's right forearm was broken as well. Polamalu rammed his head into Benson and his helmet flew off.
Tomlin did not question how Polamalu made the tackle, saying:
"He's not any more reckless than anybody else who plays the safety position. This is a guy that runs to the football and sometimes violent collisions happen. He has his share of them. But it's not any negligence on his part in terms of technique."
Parker has not played since he sprained his left knee in the third game of the season, in Philadelphia. Hampton missed the past three games with a groin injury and Davis has not played since his ankle was sprained Sept. 29 against Baltimore.
Tomlin also said tackle Marvel Smith, who has not played since he departed in the fourth quarter in Jacksonville, "is recovering nicely from his back spasms. We'll see where he is not only tomorrow but as the week goes on."
Wide receiver Dallas Baker (shoulder sprain) also will practice today, Tomlin said, but linebacker Keyaron Fox (hamstring) probably won't play.
Plaxico Burress will make his first appearance in Heinz Field since he left the Steelers and signed with the Giants as a free agent in 2005.
The Giants have rejected requests from the Pittsburgh media to talk to Burress, although he did speak in the Giants locker room about it on Monday.
"I think it is going to be fun," said Burress, who caught the winning touchdown pass in New York's 17-14 upset of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in February. "I have a lot of good relationships up there in the five years that I played there. My first time back playing in that stadium, you get to see some of the old guys that I haven't seen in a while. It should be fun."
As for how the fans in Heinz Field might react to him, Burress said, "I really don't know. It really doesn't bother me how they receive me at all. I'm going in there to try to get a win, and it will definitely be a tough game playing against that defense and some of things that they do."
Burress said he remains close to some former teammates such as Ike Taylor, James Farrior and Hampton.
"I still talk to some of the guys a couple of times a week. When you build your relationships like that and get to know people's kids and things like that, it is a lot more than football. I still hang with them and still keep in contact with them. I really don't have any hard feelings with nobody."
The Steelers do not expect Hines Ward to be fined for a block he threw Sunday that broke the jaw of Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers, and Tomlin said he wishes such talk about what some label "Fines Ward" would go away.
He also said he's not worried about Internet reports that Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs claimed the Ravens put a "bounty" on Ward the way they did on halfback Rashard Mendenhall, who was knocked out for the season with a fractured shoulder by Baltimore's Ray Lewis.
Suggs acknowledged recently on the syndicated sports radio talk show "2 Live Stews" that the Ravens had a bounty on Mendenhall and on Ward.
"We definitely like to send our messages to rookie running backs who think they've made it." Suggs said. "We did a good a job of sending a message."
As for Ward, Suggs said, "Hines Ward is definitely a dirty player, a cheap shot artist."
"If he chooses to say that, so be it," Tomlin said. "We respect that guy. He's a heck of a player. I saw him run with the ball on somebody last week. We don't lose any sleep over what anybody says."