If it looked as though Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu was hurting in the postseason, especially the Super Bowl, it's because he was.
Sources have confirmed to the Post-Gazette that Polamalu was playing with an injured Achilles tendon that robbed him of his trademark burst and explosiveness and was much worse than the Steelers let on. The injury occurred near the end of his 45-yard interception return for a touchdown Dec. 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Despite the injury, Polamalu remained in the game and had a second interception in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory. But he was never the same after that.
Before the Bengals game, Polamalu already was bothered by an injury to the soleus muscle, or calf area, of the same leg. But, on his interception runback, he pulled up just short of the goal line when he injured his Achilles, forcing him to dive for the pylon.
Polamalu missed two games after the injury before returning for the season finale against the Cleveland Browns. In that game, Polamalu had an interception on the first series -- his team-high seventh of the season -- that led to a quick touchdown and began a 41-9 rout of the Browns.
In three postseason games, however, Polamalu did not have an interception and only had 10 tackles, including three in the Super Bowl XLV loss to the Green Bay Packers. Polamalu practiced only one day a week -- Fridays -- in an attempt to rest his injury and allow him to play in a game.
The good news: Polamalu does not need surgery to repair the problem. He is getting treatment and rehabbing his injury in Los Angeles and is under the care of an orthopedic surgeon who is friendly with the Steelers' medical staff.
Barber could come here
Could former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, who is considering a comeback, end up with the Steelers?
A story in the New York Post said Thursday that Barber, who has been out of football for four years, could re-start his career with the Steelers because he is interested in playing for a successful franchise and a player-friendly coach such as Mike Tomlin. The paper cited two sources in the story.
The possibility may not be that far-fetched.
According to a Steelers source, Tomlin is good friends with Barber and his twin brother, Ronde, a cornerback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who played for Tomlin when he was the Buccaneers' secondary coach from 2001-05. Signing Barber might be a possibility, the source said, if Mewelde Moore leaves the team in free agency. Moore, the team's third-down back, is an unrestricted free agent.
Lockett is leaving
Steelers communications coordinator Dave Lockett is leaving the team after 13 seasons. A source said his departure is not related to the ongoing labor situation in the NFL in which some teams already have laid off front-office personnel or are preparing to do so. Lockett's assistant, Burt Lauten, remains the team's public relations/media manager.