Troy Polamalu, who has made game-changing defensive plays in each of the past three games, is not expected to play Sunday against the New York Jets after aggravating his lower-leg injury on a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Polamalu has not practiced the past two days, which has been the routine for the five-time Pro Bowl safety since he was injured last month. But he has always practiced Friday and played Sunday -- until now.
The Steelers do not have to list Polamalu's official injury status for the game until today after practice. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Ryan Mundy or Will Allen.
Despite aggravating his injury in the second quarter against the Bengals, Polamalu never missed a play and even had a second interception in the fourth quarter.
His teammates have suggested that one of the reasons he lateraled the ball to cornerback Bryant McFadden on the second interception -- a move that upset coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau -- was because Polamalu did not want to continue to run with his injury, especially because it could have been a lengthy return.
Polamalu, who has four of his team-high six interceptions during the team's four-game winning streak, has been a defensive hero lately.
His diving interception at the Steelers' 2 in the final three minutes in Buffalo prevented the Bills from tying the game or scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the Steelers' overtime victory. The following week, his strip sack on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco led to the winning touchdown with 2:51 remaining in a 13-10 victory in Baltimore. And his interception return for touchdown against the Bengals tied the score and ignited the Steelers in a 23-7 victory.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com . First Published December 17, 2010 5:00 AM