By Christina Rivers
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t waste any time this week in announcing that veteran safety Troy Polamalu and rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier will not play on Monday night against the Tennessee Titans. During his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin made it clear that the two defensemen were not ready to return and that the team would be focusing their practice efforts on their replacements. Cornerback Ike Taylor will miss his eighth game of the season following a broken forearm that was surgically repaired.
Shazier and Polamalu will miss their second straight week of play. Shazier has spent most of his rookie season off the field due to a knee injury and the subsequent ankle injury in week nine. Former Pittsburgh Pirates trainer Frank Velasquez talked about Shazier’s injuries with 937thefan.com, saying, “There’s always a chance that (the two injuries) could be related. Sometimes when, let’s say the knee isn’t where it should be, the body will find a way to compensate.”
Without Shazier, the Steelers are likely to continue using Lawrence Timmons at inside linebacker paired opposite both Vince Williams and Sean Spence. Williams has been splitting time with Spence, mainly entering the game in the “nickel” defense. Likewise, the Steelers look to utilize Will Allen and Mike Mitchell at safety for Polamalu.
Cornerback Cortez Allen sustained a thumb injury that limited his participation in practice on Friday, joining safety Shamarko Thomas in the list of ‘questionable’ to play on Monday night. Depending on Saturday’s final practice, either of those two defensive backs could be upgraded. Brett Keisel, Steve McLendon and Arthur Moats all were non-participants in practice on Thursday, but only McLendon missed time due to injury. McLendon continues to nurse a sore shoulder and is likely to miss the Tennessee game, replaced by Daniel McCullers and Cam Thomas. McCullers has seen more and more time on the field in recent weeks with the Steelers defense and has shown a lot of promise at the defensive tackle position. (Cam) Thomas has moved to the defensive end position as needed as well. Safety Ross Ventrone (hamstring) was able to return fully to practice this week.
The Titans have a few injuries they will be addressing ahead of the Week 11 game as well. Tight end Delanie Walker suffered a concussion and was unable to participate in practice on Thursday and Friday, likely missing play altogether this week. Defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill (hamstring), running back Dexter McCluster (knee), running back Leon Washington (hamstring) and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (back) all saw limited participation on Thursday and Friday.
For fantasy football enthusiasts, three interesting statistics show up for these two teams heading into Week 11. The Steelers have only generated 2.4 yards-per-carry in their past two meetings with the Titans, both losses. Le’Veon Bell suffered a midfoot sprain and was unable to play in 2013 and is expected to be utilized much more in this 2014 game. In the past four games, Bell has averaged 51.3 rushing yards-per-game. Tennessee continues to struggle against tough rushing opponents. The Titans have lost by 14 or more points this season five times, second to last in the league only to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The average score in those five games has been (for-against Tennessee) 11-30.
Steelers Injury Recap
Brett Keisel (DE, non-injury related)
Ross Ventrone (S, hamstring)
Arthur Moats (LB, non-injury related)
Shamarko Thomas (S, hamstring)
Cortez Allen (CB, thumb)
Steve McLendon (NT, shoulder)
Troy Polamalu (S, knee)
Ryan Shazier (LB, ankle)
Ike Taylor (CB, forearm)
For more Steelers news and updates, visit Steelers Central.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on