Steelers Thursday Notebook:

Easing Troy back in; four picks by Ike (Ike?!); Jonathan Dwyer's tapping out; and the deconstruction of the O-line continues.

PITTSBURGH – The Steelers have had the NFL's top-ranked pass defense for five consecutive weeks, so might it be putting its cohesiveness at risk by working Troy Polamalu back into the lineup?

"If we end up No. 2, it's Troy's fault," free safety Ryan Clark said with a laugh.

"But you know what?" Clark asked. "And this is going to sound weird, but if we could end up No. 4, with more interceptions, it's better than being No. 1, because those are the things we need. And that's the thing he's able to bring to us."

Troy Polamalu certainly has produced turnovers in the past. In 10 years he's produced 41 turnovers (interceptions+forced fumbles+fumble recoveries). The current foursome in the starting secondary has produced 44 turnovers in 34 years.

So it's a no-brainer to return Polamalu to strong safety in place of Will Allen for the first time in seven weeks.

"There is a comfort in having him in the huddle," said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "Everybody has seen where he has been and what he has done. His reputation is not a myth. He's made the plays. That always has to be a plus for your defense."

Expect Polamalu to alternate with Allen as he works himself back into football shape.

"I am sure, if he is honest, it will take him a while to get his complete timing back," LeBeau said. "But we are happy he is coming back."


Perhaps spurred by the return of Polamalu, or perhaps because of easy prey at quarterback, Ike Taylor intercepted four passes at Thursday's practice during team scrimmages.

"That's a team record," said fourth-year cornerback Keenan Lewis. "The old record was three."

By whom?

"By me," Lewis said.

"It's practice," said Clark in an Allen Iverson-like dismissal. "I think the positive today is actually working on it in practice, actually being ball-aware. That's the one thing we need to do more of, especially him. Coach [Mike] Tomlin has been preaching to him, ‘play the ball, play the ball' ever since the Tennessee the game. I think that's really been a big change in him. He's been ball-focused, and just coming down with them will come. I think having a practice like that builds that confidence."

And breaks records.


Max Starks returned to practice Thursday, and as the players predicted the previous day Starks kicked Kelvin Beachum back to right tackle, Ramon Foster back to right guard, and David DeCastro back to the bench – for the time being.

The status of Maurkice Pouncey remained in limbo as left guard Willie Colon remained sidelined with a knee injury suffered in the previous Ravens game.

"We'll see Friday," was all Colon could say about his plans this Sunday.

If Colon returns, Pouncey moves back to center and Doug Legursky moves back to the sideline, and the only real change would be at right tackle with Beachum.

"The good thing is that he lined up and played a significant portion of the game last week," Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said of the rookie. "That's a good thing. It's not a good thing that Mike [Adams] got hurt, but when he did, Beachum had to go in and play a significant number of plays, the majority of those having to be passing, and he held his own. He gets a full week of practice taking all the reps, and we need to make sure we're looking out for him like we always do with those guys on the edges on either side. We expect him to step in and play at a high level."


Two weeks ago against the Ravens, new starting running back Jonathan Dwyer tapped out twice, each time as he was just starting to roll. Dwyer was asked about it Wednesday.

"I was just tired," he explained. "You don't want to be the guy who's selfish. By you being out there when you're tired you're not mentally going to be there, or something might happen just because you're tired."

That's not what the Steelers are seeking from him this time against the Ravens.

"Jonathan just has to show that he can take the bulk of the carries without needing a break or taking a few plays off on the sideline," said Haley. "I think that will be what defines Jonathan as his career goes forward. He's getting a great opportunity. We're all excited and have been excited about a bunch of things he's done. Hopefully, he goes in and takes this role seriously and won't let us take him off the field."

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