The Pittsburgh Steelers got the bad news they expected when it was announced that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker LaMarr Woodley would miss Sunday’s big AFC North clash at Baltimore.
But they did get a bit of good news as well as both Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu will both return to the lineup.
With Charlie Batch still under center for the Steelers, it is unclear how much impact Brown will have on the game, but the same can’t be said for Polamalu.
He has yet to play a full game this season and won’t be out there for every snap on Sunday, but at the minimum, his presence will be in the mind of Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco.
Truthfully, there really hasn’t been a need for Polamalu as the secondary has performed quite nicely during the past six games, a stretch in which they haven’t allowed a quarterback to pass for over 200 yards. Will Allen has filled in admirably in Polamalu’s absence, but one thing has been lacking from this Steelers’ defense all season- the big play.
That’s something Polamalu can deliver, especially against the Ravens.
Polamalu has been notorious for giving Flacco fits and if this game is as physical as the one two weeks ago, Polamalu could make a difference.
The Steelers’ defense kept the Ravens’ offense out of the end zone in the last meeting and it will take a similar effort to win this one, but if Dick LeBeau uses Polamalu wisely, he can have an impact on Sunday.
What that means is pick the spots that you use him. That means second and third-and-long situations for sure. But it also means that LeBeau must give Polamalu some freedom. By allowing him to walk around the line of scrimmage, it gives Flacco something to think about and just getting in Flacco’s head in pressure situations could be enough.
Polamalu may not be 100 percent healthy, but he didn’t get dumber during the span that he has been injured. He has always been a very smart player and has always had success playing the cat and mouse game and baiting opposing quarterbacks.
His intellect alone could create a big play and as we saw the Ravens make the big play in special teams two weeks ago, sometimes all it takes is one big play.
Not only that, but just his presence makes Ryan Clark even better and Clark has had a fantastic year without his normal sidekick next to him.
Everyone knows the Steelers will be behind the eight ball all day offensively and everyone knows how difficult it is to win in Baltimore (Ravens riding 19-game home win streak), but if one guy is capable of making a game-changing play, it is Polamalu.
It won’t be good enough to just have him back out there since the secondary has been fine without him. Polamalu is going to have to come up with something special.
Don’t be surprised if he does exactly that.