PITTSBURGH -- With the Pittsburgh Steelers fast running out of games and his left knee still not healed, star safety Troy Polamalu isn't certain if he will be back this season.
Polamalu is hopeful of playing again, but he said Tuesday there is no definitive date for his return.
Polamalu's latest injury, to his posterior cruciate ligament, was initially expected to be less severe than the anterior cruciate ligament injury that kept him out of the Steelers' second through fifth games. But he won't play Thursday night in Cleveland, the fourth consecutive game he's missed with his latest injury.
Asked what it will take for him to play again this season, Polamalu said, "A whole lot of feeling. A whole lot of prayers. God willing, hopefully, I'll be able to play. We'll see what the doctor says."
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward has made relatively fast comebacks from knee injuries by using a hyperbaric chamber, a device that increase the amount of oxygen circulating in the body and supposedly hastens injury recovery.
Polamalu said he's also used the device, as well as other remedies.
"I've exercised all legal options," he said.
Polamalu's lengthy injury layoffs have visibly affected a Steelers defense that was the NFL's best statistically in 2007 and 2008, but has slipped this season. The Steelers have allowed more points (99) in the fourth quarter than all but two other teams, losing leads in the final quarter during five of their six losses.
The Steelers have permitted a league-high nine touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, plus 1,037 yards passing - more than any team except Arizona (1,206).
"Honestly, I don't think one person would make a difference in how this season has ended up for this team," Polamalu said, dismissing his own impact on the defense.
Regardless, the Steelers are 4-0 when Polamalu is on the field for more than a handful of plays and 2-6 when he isn't. They haven't not lost a game when he's been on the field in the fourth quarter.
"When we lose and I'm out there, I can always point a finger at myself," he said. "Not being out there ... it almost feels worse. We're playing well, we're just not playing well when we need to play well. We're putting 3 1/2 quarters together, we can't put that final part together."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press