"I know you guys think he had a great game," said Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton. "I don't."
Horton, of course, understands that the bar Polamalu has set is higher than it is for most. Yet, while Polamalu's sack/forced fumble turned the Baltimore Ravens' late lead into a Steelers win, Polamalu also made a critical mistake on a 61-yard completion on third-and-15 that led to the Ravens' first-quarter touchdown.
Polamalu was supposed to follow his motion man to the side that became overloaded, but he instead blitzed.
"You know, he's a creative young man," Horton said. "But the thing with Troy, I kind of compare it to Reggie Jackson. Reggie had a lot of home runs but he also had a lot of strikeouts. Troy, you have to let him be creative, and we do. He's a special player and you can't deny that, so he has a lot more freedom than you would give somebody else."
And the point?
"He's not Superman," Horton said. "He's Troy."
Horton did become enthused when the S-word was hung in front of the name Ike Taylor.
The Steelers' eighth-year cornerback might be playing the best ball in his career of late.
"Yep, he has," Horton said. "If you think Nnamdi Asomugha out in Oakland plays good ball, then this guy's playing the same thing. Guys don't throw at him anymore; he picks the ball off when they throw it to him; he's always on their top guy. So, yeah, he is. Very astute."
Should Taylor make the Pro Bowl?
"I wish the play against Oakland in the end zone would've counted because that's another interception for another touchdown," Horton said of the Taylor touchdown that was disallowed because of a questionable roughing call against James Harrison.
"But Ike's on pace to have a great, great year. He's doing a heck of a job with everything we want: tackling, covering, and being responsible, accountable. Again, I go back to the Oakland Raiders' corner. If he's a Pro Bowl player, this guy's a Pro Bowl player. I'm just looking at numbers and what he's doing on the field."
As for the numbers (per ESPN.com), Taylor has 2 interceptions, 9 passes defensed, a sack, a forced fumble, and 54 tackles that don't include his 9 special-teams tackles.
Asomugha, with two fewer games played, hasn't intercepted a pass or forced a fumble or sacked a quarterback. He has 16 tackles and 5 passes defensed, although quarterbacks rarely throw his way.
"Yeah, a little bit," Miller said. "It's a little different, but I'm feeling better every day."
Miller saw the frightening TV replay, but didn't think much of it.
"It was a hard hit, but it's part of the game," he said. "We play a physical game. Unfortunately you're going to be in those situations at times, hopefully less often than not. It happened and I'm concentrating on getting better."
Miller missed Wednesday's practice and will likely sit out Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Miller has missed only two games since joining the Steelers in 2005. And in those two 2008 games, Matt Spaeth started in his place and caught 6 passes in each game.
"Matt'll be able to step right in," said Ben Roethlisberger. "Obviously you cannot replace Heath Miller. Heath is one of the best if not the best in the game, so it'll be hard to fully replace him. But Matt will be phenomenal."
Smith, according to a source, wouldn't return to the Steelers until their first-round playoff game, regardless of whether the team has a bye.
GET UP AND RUN!
At his Tuesday press conference, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin praised the receiving, blocking and tackling skills of rookie receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who said, "Yeah that was definitely one of my best games and I'm glad it was in a big game because that's when they're supposed to happen."
But it's possible that Sanders could've had a better game had he not remained on the ground following a 28-yard reception at the Baltimore 2-yard line. Sanders wasn't sure, but he thought Ed Reed had grazed him with his shoe.
Replays were inconclusive, but Sanders's good friend, fellow rookie Antonio Brown, was certain that Sanders had not been touched. Brown rushed over in an attempt to drag Sanders across the goal line.
"I didn't know what he was doing," Sanders said. "When he stood over me, I'm thinking, ‘OK, stay down.' And then it was like ‘What are you doing?' Then Ray Lewis came over and touched me."
"He thought he was down so he thought I was crazy," said Brown. "But I was trying to drag him in the end zone. He wasn't quite down and I had seen the play because I was scrambling. I saw he made a good catch and wasn't down. He could've rolled over. He made the catch after he was clipped, so technically he was still up. I felt he could've still scored but he wasn't aware of where he was at.
"Also," Brown said, "I was worried he would've flipped the ball away like he always do, and it would've been a fumble."