Game Day Notebook

Steelers-Titans sub-plots to get you through till the 1 p.m. kickoff at Heinz Field:

It's a myth which Troy Polamalu attempts to correct every time -- the myth that he's a freelancer.

The Steelers' strong safety heard the word inserted into the middle of a question about Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, and he bristled.

"Well, by answering that question I would have to admit I'm a freelancer," Polamalu said. "I would have to reply and say I have a responsibility on this defense like everybody else does. But, no, it doesn't make it any more difficult. We all have a responsibility and a gap, and a coverage within a defense, and we all have to be very sound in doing that."

The other label Polamalu's trying to conquer is that he's injury prone. Since an injury ended his eye-popping performance in the first quarter of the 2009 opener against the Titans, that label has turned into a reality. Polamalu has missed 22 games the last four seasons after missing only 8 games in his first six seasons.

As of right now, all systems are go. His sidekick in the deep patrol, Ryan Clark, even said this is the best he's seen Polamalu, physically, in years. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau didn't disagree.

"I think he is in good shape, and I thought he played well at the end of last year when he got back in the lineup," said LeBeau. "I think if you roll that back a little bit and go to him last year when he came back and finished up, I thought he played very well. I think it's a continuation of that. His movement is good and his knowledge – I don't know if anybody is carrying more knowledge of what is going on out there than Troy. I think we're going to see a lot of good football from him."


Betcha didn't know that Ben Roethlisberger reached 25,000 passing yards in 3,109 passes, the second-fastest in NFL history to Kurt Warner, who reached 25,000 passing yards in 3,076 passes.

Betcha did know, though, that Roethlisberger will pass 30,000 career passing yards early this season, and probably today. He's at 29,844 and needs just 156 against the Titans to become the 36th NFL passer to reach the plateau. Brett Favre is first with 71,838.

"You know, I've never been one about individual goals. It's more about the team to me," said Roethlisberger. "To me those are things I'll look back on when I'm done. When I'm done with my career I'll look back and think about how great it might've been."

Q&A: Maurkice Pouncey

Q: Ever hear of a website called Pro Football Focus?

MP: "Pro Football Focus? No."

Q: They watch every player and play on TV and assign grades.

MP: "Do they play football?"

Q: No. They're nerds like me.

MP: "Oh, then I don't even want to hear it. I don't even care."

Q: They're not real kind to you.

MP: "I don't care."

Q: Don't you want any motivation?

MP: "I got my own motivation. I just want to win games. I don't care what no writer says."

Q: You said you use that stuff for fuel.

MP: "Maybe back in the day. I'm a different dude now, man. Nothing really gets to me. I care about guys here, the coaches, all the guys. That's it."


Titans tight end Delanie Walker is in the news as co-defendant -- along with his former teammate in San Francisco, Aldon Smith -- in a pair of lawsuits filed this week. The two plaintiffs were shot at Smith's party and are seeking compensation.

But at least we know the Titans have a tight end.

The Steelers? Maybe not so much.

The Steelers list Heath Miller as doubtful -- he won't play -- and just put Matt Spaeth on injured reserve. Third tight end David Paulson is more of a move tight end, and David Johnson has been clearly slowed by continuing knee trouble.

That leaves August pick-up Michael Palmer as the main healthy in-line tight end, unless the Steelers opt to use tackle Kelvin Beachum, who played there in the first half of the third preseason game.

Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley implied to a group of reporters that Beachum is just for an emergency.

"We are just going to have to get the most out of the three that we are going to have in helmets: David Paulson, David Johnson and Michael Palmer," said Haley. "Again, it's the first game of the season. They are going to be playing a lot of snaps one way or another. We are just going to have to get the most out of those three."

What about Beachum?

"Yeah. And you always have to have a fallback plan," Haley said. "Obviously, if we get short, we have to have answers, because we do play with a tight end most of the time."

Earlier in the week, Beachum admitted he was back playing tight end at practice, and said, "I'll be playing it a lot this week."


Fullbacks seem to be in short supply for both teams, although the Steelers surprisingly listed their only fullback, Will Johnson, as probable after Johnson missed two practices this week.

Johnson said late in the week that his hamstring is "still tender to the touch."

Of course, the Steelers could always move Beachum there.

"He can do everything," Johnson said with a chuckle. "But Paulson, D.J., they all can play it."

The Titans listed their only fullback, Quinn Johnson, as doubtful with a quadriceps injury. They brought in two fullbacks for a workout Friday but didn't sign either. The Titans could call up Collin Mooney off the practice squad if necessary.

Also listed on the Titans' injury report are right tackle David Stewart and outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, but both are expected to play.


Haley on reserve Steelers running back Felix Jones' grasp of the playbook:

"I met him the night before the (Kansas City preseason) game in a team meeting. Then he leads the team in carries and had some kickoff returns. I'd never seen that happen before. So that in itself was impressive. Now that he has been able to get settled in a little bit and get comfortable, you can see there is a reason he was taken number one at some point in his career. We are excited about having him on board and seeing what he is capable of."

Steel City Insider Top Stories