Just as the Jets have limited All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to make sure his hamstring can handle game day, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin has taken to limiting All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, who sat out the Jets' 22-17 win over the Steelers on Dec. 19 at Heinz Field and also missed the next game with an ankle injury.
"We're going to err on the side of caution," Tomlin said. "We'll limit Troy like we always do. We'll make sure Troy's on Heinz Field on Sunday at 6."
That gives him half an hour to warm up for the opening kickoff of the AFC Championship Game Sunday on Sunday. Obviously, the Steelers' defense is far more dynamic with Polamalu in the game because of his ability to blitz or drop in coverage and because of his nose for the ball. But Tomlin wouldn't discuss how limited the Steelers were without him in the previous meeting.
"We weren't," Tomlin insisted. "We're not going to use his presence or lack of presence as an excuse for anything. We have one standard, that standard is winning. Last time we played the Jets, they beat us."
As for the rest of his roster, Tomlin said, "We're in great shape. [Starting left tackle] Jonathan Scott is going to be all right." Starting right tackle Flozell Adams, who missed the second half against Baltimore with flu-like symptoms, has recovered from his illness. Starting left cornerback Bryant McFadden will be limited in practice with an abdominal strain and backup safety Will Allen will be limited early in the week with a sprained knee.
One player receiving a lot of attention is 12-year veteran defensive end Aaron Smith, a Steelers favorite, who has missed the past 11 games with a triceps injury, is going to return to practice this week. The prevailing feeling is that the Steelers are hoping he can make it back if they reach the Super Bowl, but his status for the AFC title game seems uncertain at the moment.
Asked if Smith would start ahead of second-year man Ziggy Hood, who has three sacks and leads the defensive line with five quarterback hits and 13 pressures, Tomlin said, "Snap counts will be part of that discussion and that's going to be a limited number of snaps. The guys that have been given the opportunity to replace him, like Ziggy Hood, have more than met the standard. They deserve to continue to play, but it would be nice to add that tool to the tool box on Sunday."