Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith sits alone prior to workouts at the Steelers' practice facility on the South Side Wednesday.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Another practice, another day of mostly watching practice for Aaron Smith. As the countdown to Super Bowl XLV progresses, it has become evident that the healing process in the defensive end's left arm will not keep pace.
It looks more and more as if Smith will spend Super Bowl Sunday the way he has spent the past dozen games, watching his teammates play football.
"You can't help but get frustrated sometimes," said Smith, the disappointment in his eyes and voice palpable. "Just the fact it takes time; you can't do anything to speed it up."
Smith's left triceps tendon was ruptured Oct. 24 while playing the Dolphins in Miami. He had surgery that week, and coach Mike Tomlin did not put him on injured reserve. Tomlin held out hope that the man the Steelers believe has been their best 3-4 defensive end in the nearly 30 years they have run that scheme might return to play by the playoffs.
The playoffs have come and gone and only the Super Bowl remains. Smith returned to "practice" two weeks ago but really hasn't done much on the field, he said. Tomlin listed him again as having "limited participation" in practice Wednesday.
Smith has a small scar 4-5 inches long reaching up the back of his left arm from his elbow, where the triceps tendon was reattached to the bone. It long ago healed, but the process of strengthening it has gone slowly.
"It would be nice if it were under my control," Smith said. "If you could outwork this, it would be great, I'd just outwork the problem. It's not something you can speed up, it's not in my hands."
Tomlin will not put him in a game if Smith does not have enough strength in that left arm to ward off blockers, tackle ballcarriers and protect himself.
"Just get it back to the point it's mature enough," Smith explained. "Even though it's healed, you have to get to that point where it's strong."
Smith made it clear that, if he cannot play, he does not want to suit up for the Super Bowl. There has been speculation that might happen, but he said that would be unfair to everyone and distasteful to him.
"The point in Dallas is to win the game," Smith said. "If I'm not able-bodied to help win the game, then why not put someone in who can help win the game? That's my feeling.
"If I was on the other end of somebody else and this guy wasn't able to play and you wanted to put a suit on him, I'd be probably upset because I want to win the game.
"No matter who suits up, put the best people out there to win the game. It wouldn't be fair to the guys, it wouldn't be fair to anybody."
At 34, this might be Smith's final chance to earn another Super Bowl ring. If it is, it won't be for lack of trying. He said he feels good and wants to return to play in 2011, that he has no thought of retiring yet no matter what happens Feb. 6.
"I have no intentions of not coming back," Smith said. "If I was getting killed every play, maybe. I try not to make any decisions on emotion or when you're frustrated. Let me come back and play football, and then we'll see. If I don't enjoy it or I'm getting killed, if that's the case, yeah. But I don't feel like that."
Some respect, please
A brouhaha developed in Green Bay this week when several players on injured reserve complained that the Packers were not taking them to the Super Bowl until Thursday and that they would not be included in the official team photo.
The Packers changed their plans. They will wait until their 15 players on injured reserve arrive in Dallas and will snap the photo Friday and include them.
That never has been a problem for the Steelers. Not only have they always included their players on injured reserve in the Super Bowl photo, those players are treated the same as all others. They fly on the team charter, which will leave Monday, and have the same accommodations. That is how it always has been.
"Of course," said offensive tackle Willie Colon, placed on injured reserve after his Achilles was ruptured in June. "That's how I think the other guys [in Green Bay] should be treated and not separated like that. A guy on IR, it's not his doing."
Offensive tackle Max Starks, placed on injured reserve Nov. 10 with a neck injury that required surgery, said what the Packers did "stinks."
"It's in the eyes of the organization. They've been doing this for a long time as well. If that's the way [the Packers] feel, that's the way they feel. I'm glad I'm in this organization and there's that respect.
"In this league every owner is different, and that's what makes some places more special than others, and that's why this is a special place because they include everybody. They realize everybody has put their hand in the pile at some point."
McFadden vows to play
Cornerback Bryant McFadden did not practice Wednesday but predicted he will play in the Super Bowl. He hopes his ailing abdomen reaches the point that it was the past Sunday for the AFC championship game.
The team's starting left cornerback had to yield that job to William Gay and played only in the nickel defense.
"The way I played this Sunday, if I can get 75-85 [percent], that's great for me, that's a blessing because this type of injury is very difficult. I feel if I can get there I'm in paradise. That's what I'm shooting for."
If that's the case, it's likely Gay will start at left cornerback against Green Bay, and McFadden again will play in the nickel.
More injury updates
McFadden, safety Troy Polamalu (Achilles), center Maurkice Pouncey (high ankle sprain), wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot), safety Will Allen (knee), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott did not practice. Aaron Smith was limited.
For Green Bay, linebackers Erik Walden (ankle) and Frank Zombo (knee) did not practice. Those limited in practice were linebacker Desmond Bishop (ankle), offensive tackle Chad Clifton (neck), linebacker A.J. Hawk (knee), wide receiver Greg Jennings (knee) and center Jason Spitz (calf).