Troy Polamalu has not practiced this week. He will do so today and start at free safety Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Had the Steelers taken that approach the first time he injured his calf, he might have avoided re-injuring it and missing seven more games.
"I think it was a better game plan going into the last game than it was going into the Philadelphia game where I injured myself," Polamalu said.
He referred to the way he practiced and played upon his return in the fourth game of the season. He played in the opener and then missed the next two games with a calf injury. In the week before their Oct. 7 game against Philadelphia, Polamalu went all-out through full practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He left the game against the Eagles early with what he now says was a different muscle injury than the first.
Last week, he was listed as having gone through full practices each day, but that does not mean he took every snap. He also played less than a full game in Baltimore.
"I was limited in a way in terms of repetitions and the game plan as far as practice was concerned throughout the week," Polamalu said.
Asked if it might have made a difference had that approach been taken in the week before the game against the Eagles, Polamalu said, "I don't know, I don't like to deal in hypotheticals. It happened, so ... "
The Steelers have listed both injuries as "calf" and there is no requirement for them to go into more detail. But Polamalu called it "a different muscle" this time.
"I already gave you too much," he said, laughing.
Polamalu, who has made trips to seven Pro Bowls, wrote this week in a blog:
"After being out for so long, God has reminded me of why football is so important in my life. Time away has this effect on me anyway, but especially when coupled with the sudden and sad news in Kansas City. This game has aligned many things for me, and despite the recent challenges, tragedies, and growing concern for player health, it has enforced virtues, tempted passions, and it has helped reveal to me my own spiritual deficiencies.
"I cant help but feel fortunate, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to play this game. I am a better man than I was, still learning and growing, yet far from good enough to be counted among the worthy. May God give us the strength to overcome the many adversities life brings. Thank you all for your sincerest kind words and prayers. I am eternally thankful for them. Pray not just for me, but for all of us who are in need. Many times the veil of money, a smile, even laughter conceals the inner turmoil one goes through."
Polamalu said Thursday that being away from the game "just kind of reinforces the perspective that maybe I didn't appreciate as much as I used to."
The time away might not have altered how long he wants to keep playing football, though.
"My plans are always the same. When you live day to day you can't talk years, you can't talk weeks, you can't talk months. I just try to deal with the present."
After Ben Roethlisberger went through a second full practice and said he felt good, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin named him the starting quarterback for Sunday against the Chargers.
Roethlisberger missed the past three games with shoulder and rib injuries.
Tackle Willie Colon said Roethlisberger's teammates "see what the world sees: He's awesome, comeback quarterback, he's our leader, he's our field general, he's our everything. We need him back, we need him back around this time, December football."
Tight end Heath Miller said he expects no change in Roethlisberger because of the extended time off. That's how it has been in the past, he said. The previous time Roethlisberger missed more than one game came in 2010 when the NFL suspended him the first four games. In his next game back, he threw three touchdowns and had a 112.7 passer rating in a 28-10 victory against Cleveland.
"From what I see, he just kind of picks up where he left off," Miller said. "We have the most confidence in him. If he's in the huddle, he's going to make plays for us."
Colon also is trying to get back and practiced for the first time in two weeks Thursday. Swelling in his knee prevented him from playing in the past two games. The knee has been drained twice, and he said after practice that he felt good, but that how his knee responds today will be important.
If Colon can play, Maurkice Pouncey will move back to center after playing left guard for one game.
Ryan Clark (hip) and LaMarr Woodley (ankle) did not return to practice, missing both days this week. Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder) was limited in practice. Mike Wallace (knee) did return as did Antonio Brown (ankle). Will Johnson went through his second full practice after he left the game Sunday against Baltimore with a concussion.
Ike Taylor's streak of playing in 135 consecutive games will end Sunday. It was the longest current streak by a cornerback in the NFL.
Center Ray Mansfield holds the team record for consecutive games played at 182.
"It meant a lot," Taylor said of the streak. "But they say all things come to an end. There's nothing I can do about it."
Taylor has a hairline fracture to his right ankle that will keep him out at least two weeks and possibly longer. It is a unique injury because the 10th-year veteran said it's the first time he has he's ever missed a game because of an injury -- NFL, college or high school.
"It's unfamiliar territory," he said. "It's very frustrating."
His foot is in a walking boot, not a cast.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter: @EdBouchette. First Published December 7, 2012 5:00 AM