List of injured defenders grows

Travis Kirschke injured his calf and Lawrence Timmons injured what had been his healthy ankle against the Vikings. Also, Ryan Clark may voluntarily sit the next one out.

The Steelers lost two more starters on a defense already reeling due to injury as they beat the Vikings 27-17 Sunday.

Defensive end Travis Kirschke left with what looked like a severe left calf injury, and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons departed with a right ankle sprain. Kirschke moved up to start on the left side when Aaron Smith was knocked out for the season with a torn rotator cuff.

Ironically, Timmons' replacement may have won the game for Pittsburgh. Keyaron Fox intercepted a Brett Favre pass and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown with one minute to go, putting the game away.

"Thankfully we've got a little time to get those things addressed here not having to play a game next week," coach Mike Tomlin said of the injury situation.

The Steelers next play in Denver on Nov. 9, and they might have to deal with yet another missing starter. Free safety Ryan Clark has sickle cell trait, and his blood reacted so poorly in the high altitude during the Steelers' last game there in 2007 that he lost his spleen and gall bladder.

Clark has been discussing his medical issue with doctors and will decide this week whether to play in Denver.

"I don't know yet," Clark said Sunday. "I've been checking, we've been doing our due diligence on it through the offseason and up until now. I don't think it's a decision you can make in a week or two. It something you have to feel confident you can do."

The Steelers' only two losses, at Chicago and Cincinnati, came without Pro Bowl strong safety Troy Polamalu, with the defense losing fourth-quarter leads in each. Polamalu missed four games, but he has returned to start in the past two.


* Coach Mike Tomlin has been considering not practicing his players this week, which would be a first for the team during its annual off week during the season.

* Pittsburgh has won eight straight at Heinz Field and seven straight everywhere against NFC North teams. The Steelers last lost to an NFC North team in 1995, in their finale at Green Bay.

* A record crowd of 65,597 jammed Heinz Field on Sunday, surpassing the 65,350 in the AFC title game in January. Heinz has an official capacity of 65,050.

* Before Sunday, the last time the Steelers scored two defensive touchdowns in a game was Nov. 22, 1988.

"It's one of those slow-motion moments that's a joy in this business, depending on what end of it you're on," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I think we've had a few balls run back on us this year. It's good to be on the good side of it."

* Ben Roethlisberger has seen two of his interceptions returned for touchdowns in 2009.

* The Steelers have had two kickoffs returned for touchdowns against them in the past two games. Minnesota's Percy Harvin ran one back 88 yards Sunday, and Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs took one back 98 yards. They did not allow a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown in 2008.

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