Ryan Clark practiced all week and maintained that he and/or Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would decide at some point whether he would play in Denver.
That time is at hand, because Clark is not expected to play Monday night and the Steelers soon will reveal that.
Tomlin listened to the doctors, talked to Clark and the coach likely took the choice out of his player's hands by making the executive decision for him.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said last week that if Clark cannot play, Tyrone Carter would start at safety. Ryan Mundy also could play there if needed, and both Deshea Townsend and Keiwan Ratliff, veteran corners who have played safety, could fill in as necessary.
- Game: Steelers (5-2) vs. Denver Broncos (6-1), 8:30 p.m.
- Where: Invesco Field, Denver.
- TV: ESPN.
"I don't think it will change our game plan a whole lot," Denver coach Josh McDaniels said Wednesday of Clark's possible absence. "He is a very good football player, but they've got some other good players who have played a lot of football back there, if he, for one reason or another, does not play."
Clark's absence will leave the Steelers without at least two starters in Denver and possibly three. Nick Eason will start at left defensive end for Travis Kirschke, who is out with a torn left calf muscle, and linebacker Lawrence Timmons may not start. He missed his third practice of this week with a sprained right ankle that forced him out of the Oct. 25 game against Minnesota.
Timmons not only revealed that he has a grade one, or mild sprain, but that doctors have used other techniques to accelerate the healing time.
"I got a shot in my ankle today," Timmons wrote on his blog Wednesday. "They took 10 ccs of my blood and they have a machine that takes the plasma out. Then they injected the plasma into my ankle. That helps speed up the process of healing. It helped me to a speedy recovery the last time I hurt my ankle."
Timmons missed the final preseason game, the opener and did not start the second game after a high left ankle sprain in the summer. His right ankle was injured against the Vikings. He wrote on his blog that "I still can't run on it. It's day-to-day right now whether I will play on Monday."
Keyaron Fox would make his third start of the season at inside linebacker if Timmons is unable to play
LaMarr Woodley had as many sacks in each of his four playoff games as he has had in seven games this season, which he said still has a long way to go with many opportunities.
One of those could occur Monday night in Denver. Tyler Polumbus, a second-year tackle, is expected to make his first NFL start for the Broncos on the right side for injured Ryan Harris.
Woodley, who had 11 1/2 sacks in the 15 games he played last season, then added six in the postseason -- two in each game. He also had two sacks in the Steelers' playoff loss to Jacksonville in his rookie season.
He is the only player in NFL history to have two sacks in each of his four postseason games. He has just two this season. Perhaps, offenses have solved him?
"Nah, just not taking advantage of opportunities I've been getting," Woodley said. "I've been missing a few sacks here and there. I had a sack last week against [Brett] Favre, jumped off sides. Had a chance to get him in the first half, missed him, but James Harrison got him. You can't complain about stuff like that, especially if we're still winning."
He has noticed that tackles are "kicking back more, trying to beat me to a certain point.
"I have to find a way to get past that. When I find a way to get past that -- it's still a long season -- it's really going to get dangerous."
Anthony Frazier winced as he saw kickoffs returned for touchdowns against the Steelers in each of the past two games. Now, he can do something about it.
Frazier, one of their best special-teams tacklers, missed the past two games with a bruised thigh. He watched from the sideline as Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score and Minnesota's Sidney Rice returned one 88 yards for a touchdown.
Frazier plays the L5 position on the kickoff team, just to the left of kicker Jeff Reed. Despite two missed games, his 10 tackles trail Fox by two for the special-teams lead. Frazier's seven solo tackles are tops.
"I'm ready to get back playing," Frazier said. "I'm tired of sitting on the sideline, watching. I'm ready to go."
Another difficult task awaits Frazier and his kamikaze unit in Denver. Eddie Royal of the Broncos has two touchdown returns this season, one on a kickoff for 93 yards and one on a punt for 71 yards.
"He's real good," Frazier said. "He has top-end speed and a quick burst. He can shoot the hole and, once he gets to the hole he's hitting it 100 mph, so we really have to eliminate the gaps and play gap sound."
For more on the Steelers, read the new blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published November 6, 2009 5:00 AM