Troy Polamalu gave some insight today into why Steelers coach Mike Tomlin hasn’t ruled out playing Ben Roethlisberger Saturday against the St. Louis Rams.
“The team that may win the Super Bowl has probably lost their last game,” Polamalu said.
The implication there is that the Steelers need to finish strong — even though they could win their final two games and still have to take the wild-card route to the Super Bowl.
The Steelers should be able to beat the hapless Rams with Ben Stein playing quarterback. Hence an argument can be made that the Steelers can win their final two games handily —- and take momentum into the postseason — and still allow Roethlisberger to rest his ailing ankle.
Roethlisberger is pushing to play against the Rams, and Polamalu said that desire stems from the way NFL players are wired.
“As an athlete you’re geared to always be on the goal and always play,” Polamalu said. “Obviously there’s a point where, ‘Oh, I just can’t go.’ If your hamstring’s injured you just can’t burst. But mentally you’re always preparing yourself like ‘I can play this game, I can play this game.’ ”
The elephant in the Steelers’ locker room this week is the reality that wide receiver Hines Ward may play his final game at Heinz Field Saturday.
“He’s been a great teammate, one of the best I’ve ever had,” Polamalu said. “He’s been our team leader on offense since I’ve been here. He’s had a lot of success as a receiver, especially for being on run-first team for such a long time.”
Emmanuel Sanders said Ward has been a ”great mentor” to him, Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace and that “I look up to the guy.”
“If Hines does decide to retire, I’m happy for him,” Sanders said. “I hope that he gets the 1,000-catch mark and I hope that we can send him out of here Super Bowl champs. That would be beautiful if he decides to retire.”
Sanders said he will likely be a game-time decision Saturday, but I think the Steelers will hold him out another week as a precaution.
Sanders hasn’t played the last two games because of a foot injury he sustained while making a cut in practice. He was probably putting too much stress on the foot as a result of favoring his left knee, on which he had arthroscopic surgery in early November.
“The most important thing is that I’m there for the playoffs and 100 percent,” Sanders said. “Don’t want this injury to be lingering.”