Did he or did he not?
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that safety Troy Polamalu has been symptom free since Sunday night after the Steelers announced he had "concussion-like symptoms" from a tackle he made against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tomlin added that Polamalu still will have to pass a "battery of tests" in order to play Sunday against Cincinnati and that "we are comfortable at this juncture that it will happen."
But, was it a concussion or not? Tomlin did not say, just as he and the Steelers did not say the previous time Polamalu was pulled from a game, Oct. 16, when he had "concussion-like symptoms" after a collision with Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew.
Polamalu has a long history of concussions, beginning with two in high school. He had three while playing at Southern California, and he has had two previously with the Steelers -- in 2006 and '08. That's seven documented concussions.
The two head shots to Polamalu this season either caused a concussion or they did not, yet the Steelers have not said one way or the other and are being roundly criticized for how they have explained the injuries.
NBC's Al Michaels, while broadcasting Sunday night's game, compared the Steelers to "old East Germany" for their lack of injury information. Mike Florio, who writes the widely read blog Pro Football Talk, wrote that "after the game, coach Mike Tomlin wouldn't admit that Polamalu suffered a concussion. Instead, Tomlin once again broke out a term that he has used at least twice before this season: 'concussion-like symptoms.' "
That other instance occurred when Hines Ward was pulled from the Nov. 6 game against Baltimore after taking a blow to the head.
But while the Steelers, in essence, say it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, they have not called it a duck. The NFL has tightened rules on how teams must deal with concussions and there have been suggestions that by not calling it a concussion, the Steelers are trying to hide something.
Yet, in all three cases, the Steelers did the right thing. They removed the player from the game and did not permit him to return, despite lobbying efforts by Ward and Polamalu. If a player is suspected of having a concussion, he cannot return to the game and must pass the ImPACT tests to play again. And just because a player takes a blow to the head does not mean he has a concussion. Polamalu could have been examined and been determined not to have any symptoms and been allowed to return to the game without breaking the rules.
"He was asymptomatic relatively quickly, and I am talking about Sunday night," Tomlin said of Polamalu's most recent head injury, in which he struck the knee of Kansas City tackle Steve Maneri. "If we are going to err, we are going to err on the side of caution when it comes to health, particularly from a head injury standpoint. I have no issue with that.
"We lean on the expert advice of our medical staff. Troy has been good. We anticipate it being a nonissue moving forward this week. Like I said earlier, we are not going to assume anything with a player's health, particularly when we are talking about a head injury."
Tomlin said the Steelers are aware of Polamalu's history of concussions and will proceed accordingly.
"Obviously, we are sensitive to his concussion history, and we are always going to exercise the necessary precaution when dealing with it."
At least this time, TV cameras did not catch Polamalu using a cell phone on the sideline to call his wife to let her know he was OK, so there will be no repeat of that $10,000 fine the NFL levied for doing so Oct. 16.
LaMarr Woodley led the AFC with nine sacks at the midway point of the season. He hasn't played since, leaving the game against New England with a severe hamstring injury that has caused him to miss the past three games.
There's a chance he could return Sunday against Cincinnati.
"He appears to be moving toward game readiness," Tomlin said. "We will watch him throughout the week to solidify that, but we like where he is."
In other injury news:
• Center Maurkice Pouncey, who left the game in the first quarter with a stomach virus, may be limited in practice early in the week. "He's dehydrated, and he's lost a significant amount of weight," Tomlin said.
• Larry Foote could return Sunday after a hamstring injury against Kansas City. However, a hamstring injury to linebacker Chris Carter is more serious and he is questionable "at best."
• Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, who missed the game in Kansas City with a calf injury, also could return, as might special team captain Arnaz Battle, who missed the past two games with a hamstring injury.
A pushing and shoving match broke out between Mike Wallace and Chiefs safety Sabby Piscitelli before the game, and teammates on both sides joined in. Others, including Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, stepped in to break it up.
"It was minor, to my understanding," Tomlin said. "We were in the area along the 50-yard line, quarterbacks and receivers working like they normally do. Their secondary came up the visiting boundary to work in their area. There were some words exchanged. It was quickly dispersed. I thought all parties involved did a nice job diffusing the situation. I'm talking about players and personnel with both teams."
Emmanuel Sanders replaced Antonio Brown on kickoff returns in Kansas City for the first time this season. He returned four for an average of 19.3 yards. Brown has 19 returns for an average of 27.8 yards.
"We've always had a desire to use both of those men in the return game, as both kick and punt returners," Tomlin explained. "We did it when they were both rookies. We've done it less this year, primarily due to the health of Emmanuel. He appears to be moving in the right direction in regards to that. So we just want to keep both of those men in play, not only as kickoff return men but punt return men as well."
However, Tomlin said he wasn't happy with his kickoff or punt returns in Kansas City. Brown had one fair catch, another was downed and a third Kansas City punt went out of bounds.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published November 30, 2011 5:00 AM