Troy, Hines, Ben nearing full health

PITTSBURGH – Troy Polamalu gave his usual answer when asked about being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance last Sunday.

"It was last week," said Polamalu. "It's over with."

The Pittsburgh Steelers' strong safety, though, gave an unusual answer when asked if he plans to make any alterations to his uniform this week against the Atlanta Falcons.

"Do you mean with my hair?" Polamalu said. "No. If I'm hairless by the end of the season it's a good thing."

It would mean plenty of interceptions for Polamalu, who picked off his second pass of the season Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. He appeared on his way to the end zone until Larry Johnson grabbed Polamalu's hair from behind to make a tackle.

In addition to the interception, Polamalu led the Steelers with 10 tackles and defensed two other passes. As a team, the Steelers held the Chiefs to 213 yards of offense.

"[The award] means a lot honestly for our team, our defense," Polamalu said. "It's good for the whole team but it's a testament to how Coach [Dick] LeBeau puts us in a great position, how unselfish a defense we have."

Ten tackles are a season high for Polamalu, who'd been bothered by a bruised shoulder. He believes the shoulder's return to health played a role in his outstanding performance.

"I think there were a lot of factors," he said. "I think health is one of the factors. Our scheme was great. The offense put up some numbers. There were a bunch of huge factors that weighed in on it."

Wide receiver Hines Ward is also returning to full health after a sub-par start. Two weeks ago Ward complained that his injured hamstring wouldn't heal all season, but after catching five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs, Ward is singing a new tune.

"Yeah, I'm feeling fine," he said. "That was the first time I didn't feel anything in my hamstring. My body was cool. I wasn't tight. I really felt fluid. Getting into the rhythm, getting into the game, I just felt like that was the first game all year I felt good about everything."

The return of his in-game, in-play smile gave it away.

"Well, when you're losing it's kind of hard to smile," Ward said. "It's just a matter of going out and helping contribute to a win. That makes me smile more than anything."

A third Steelers player also had his best game Sunday. In fact, Ben Roethlisberger wasn't even asked about his health Wednesday for the first time since his motorcycle accident in June.

On Sunday, a robust Roethlisberger completed 16 of 19 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 153.8. He felt it was more a result of the offensive line's return to health.

"The way our offensive line is playing right now, I love it," Roethlisberger said. "We all needed a game like last week. We got a win. We needed to win the game. That was important. I think offensively we needed that as a group because we came out and played well in all phases of the offense as a group and put together an outstanding performance and I think that was big for us."

Not every player is healthy these days. Missing practice on Wednesday were linebackers James Harrison (ankle) and Joey Porter (hamstring), center Jeff Hartings (knee), fullback Dan Kreider (ankle), guard Kendall Simmons (foot) and receiver Willie Reid (foot).

Harrison has been ruled out of Sunday's game and Porter and Reid are doubtful. Simmons remains questionable, while Hartings, Kreider and Deshea Townsend (hamstring) are probable.

All four of the Falcons' starting defensive linemen missed Wednesday's practice, as did quarterback Michael Vick.

Vick (shoulder) is probable for Sunday, as are defensive linemen Grady Jackson (knee) and Patrick Kerney (hamstring). Listed as questionable are defensive linemen John Abraham (groin) and Rod Coleman (toe).

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