Pittsburgh's Pro Bowl safety, Troy Polamalu, returned to practice Friday, following a pattern he and the Steelers have employed since mid-season -- out Wednesday and Thursday to rest his injured right Achilles' tendon, back to work Friday and ready to go Sunday.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters Friday that Polamalu is probable to start against the New York Jets in Sunday's AFC Championship Game. The Achilles' injury caused Polamalu to miss the Steelers' 22-17 loss to the Jets in Week 15.
Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith, listed as doubtful, told me that he expects a decision to be made on his status Sunday. He has been sidelined since Oct. 24 because of a torn triceps, but he said he expects to be put through pushing-and-pulling exercises to test his injured arm before kickoff.
Smith, one of the NFL's elite 3-4 defensive ends, took part in some light conditioning Wednesday and was limited in practice Thursday and Friday.
The Steelers kept Smith on the active roster all season in hopes he would recover in time to help the team during the playoffs.
Steelers starting cornerback Bryant McFadden practiced for the first time this week and is listed as questionable after sustaining an abdominal injury during a playoff victory over the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday.
McFadden said he will see how he feels Saturday before a decision is made about playing against the Jets. Nickel back William Gay would start if McFadden can't play.
Safety Will Allen is questionable with a knee injury, and wide receiver Will Arnaz missed Friday's practice with an illness but is expected to play.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.