Notebook: Polamalu 'doing fine'

<b> PITTSBURGH - </b> Troy Polamalu is humble. Maybe to a fault. <br><br> The rookie first-round draft pick is quick to accept blame - any blame for any thing - just the way a rookie should. The problem, though, is that many in the media believe him and have begun reporting that Polamalu is struggling mightily.

"They don't have a clue," Steelers defensive coordinator Tim Lewis said as he gestured towards the media room. "Somebody read something to me today that said he looked lost. Look, he's way better than he's ever been. He's doing a great job. He's very instinctive and he'll be light years ahead down the road. I think the way we're doing it will be good for him. We're bringing him along slow, the way (Cincinnati Coach) Marvin (Lewis) is doing it with Carson Palmer, but we're getting him some time in the nickel and dime. He'll be fine."

Lewis' comments came a day after Coach Bill Cowher was asked for "a preliminary report" on Polamalu's progress.

"I think Troy's doing fine," Cowher said. "It's just the expectation level. People say 'What's wrong with him?' and 'He's not starting' and 'Number one pick.'

"Mike (Logan) is playing pretty good. Troy comes in in all the dime and nickel packages. He's playing safety there. Then last week when Mike doesn't practice he moves up to the dime (position). It can happen that quick in a game. We've got him playing a bunch of different positions. But he's doing fine. I mean, he had a tough day the other day but that's to be expected. I mean I love the kid's mindset. I love the way he works at it. He's a very proud kid."

Cowher went on to explain Polamalu's problems last week in kick coverage. Both Polamalu and Ike Taylor ran so hard, or "trying to go for the Chidi kill" as Cowher stated, that neither broke down to make the tackle.

Polamalu was asked about the "Chidi kill", so named because of Chidi Iwuoma's hard hit in punt coverage the first week of the season.

"That was just a complete accident," said Polamalu. "It was completely my fault."

Steelers tight end Jay Riemersma missed practice Thursday because of injuries to his chest and Achilles tendon, but he's still listed as probable for the game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. The only player listed as questionable, running back Verron Haynes (knee), returned to practice.

For the Titans, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth isn't expected to play because of a dislocated elbow. Haynesworth missed last Sunday's game and was replaced by James Atkins (6-5, 312), who had been released previously by the Titans before spending last season on their practice squad. Rookie fourth-round pick Rien Long will also work into a right tackle rotation that last Sunday included end Kevin Carter, who sacked New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks from the spot.

Other Titans listed as questionable are wide receiver Drew Bennett (shoulder), linebacker Rocky Boiman (shoulder/hand), guard Benji Olson (knee) and tight end Frank Wycheck (concussion). Of the four, Wycheck is the most unlikely to play.

At his Tuesday press conference, Cowher wondered aloud when Antwaan Randle El would get untracked as a punt returner. Randle El didn't see Cowher on TV, but he heard about it the next day at practice.

"He came out today and said, 'What are you waiting on?'" Randle El said. "I told him that I'm not waiting on anything. It's coming. I've got to get that seam. I really haven't had that yet. He just said, 'Well, don't wait until the end of the season.'"

Last season, Randle El ranked 9th in the AFC with a punt return average of 6.9. He ranked 10th in kickoff returns with an average of 22.9.

This season, he's doing a better job with kickoff returns. On punt returns, Randle El is 14th with an average of 5.2. He ranks 7th in kickoff returns with an average of 23.8.

"I'm developing a knack for it, more so than punt returns," he said. "Remember, last year, kick returns I had never done before, so it probably comes from doing it more and more."

Jim Wexell

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