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Old 12-31-2010, 11:54 PM   #1
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Default Steelers Polamalu practices, remains questionable for Browns game

Steelers Polamalu practices, remains questionable for Browns game
By Scott Brown
Saturday, January 1, 2011

Strong safety Troy Polamalu said he wants to play against the Browns.

Free safety Ryan Clark said he expects Polamalu to play in the Steelers' regular-season finale.

The decision on the Steelers' 2010 MVP ultimately will be made by coach Mike Tomlin.

Polamalu practiced Friday for the first time in three weeks and at least gave himself a chance to play in Sunday's 1 p.m. game at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Polamalu, who is tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions, has missed the last two games because of an Achilles injury.

"I felt better than I have been feeling, so I feel pretty good about that," the six-time Pro Bowler said yesterday after practice. "I've been feeling better and better since I missed the Jets game. At this point of the season, you've just got to roll with injuries since everybody's injured right now."

The question Tomlin will have to answer before Sunday is of the risk-reward variety.

If the fourth-year coach plays Polamalu, it significantly increases the Steelers' chances of winning a game that they probably need to capture the AFC North title and the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

The risk, of course, in playing Polamalu is that the injury gets worse, jeopardizing his status for the postseason.

"It's 100 percent on what coach Tomlin decides," Polamalu said. "Right now (the Achilles) feels pretty good, so hopefully I don't have a setback."

Clark said Polamalu looked good in practice.

"He got some rest, and it looks like he is ready to go," Clark said. "I think part of the motivation for him is he knows if he plays and we get this bye he gets more rest so that's what we're going for."

Indeed, it would not be a stretch to say the stakes Sunday for the Steelers are enormous.

If they beat the Browns, they win the division and get a first-round bye in the playoffs.

If they lose, they have to play the following Saturday or Sunday on the road and most likely in Kansas City or Indianapolis.

"It would help me tremendously," Polamalu said of the Steelers securing a first-round bye. "It would help a lot of guys on this team tremendously. There's guys that are just barely hanging on by a string, week by week. Unfortunately for me, that string broke and it's time for me to tie it back up there again."

If Tomlin decides to push that process back for at least another week, Ryan Mundy will make his third consecutive start at strong safety.

Clark said Mundy has been a revelation while filling in for Polamalu.

The Woodland Hills High graduate had a career-high eight tackles on the Steelers 27-3 win against the Panthers on Dec. 23.

"Very smart kid. Always in the right place," Clark said of Mundy. "Nobody's going to be Troy and you can't expect that, but he did an amazing job and we now know that we have a guy if I go down or Troy goes down."

Notes: Running back Mewelde Moore (knee) has been ruled out for Sunday's game after missing practice yesterday. Rookie Jonathan Dwyer will dress for his first game this season in Cleveland. Rookie outside linebacker Jason Worilds (knee) is questionable for the Browns game.

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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