Steelers safety Polamalu doubtful to play vs. Jets with leg injury

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu missed practice for a third consecutive day because of a strained right Achilles' tendon and a sore calf, and he likely will miss Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

Polamalu was listed as doubtful on the injury report, and Steelers players almost never play after sitting out an entire week of practice.

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Polamalu aggravated the injury during his 45-yard interception return touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. He had skipped Wednesday and Thursday practices for several weeks, but this was the first time he also missed a Friday workout.

If Polamalu can't play against the Jets, Ryan Clark would shift to strong safety and Ryan Mundy would play free safety.

That lineup might be forced to lead Pittsburgh into the playoffs since Polamalu could miss the remainder of the regular season, sources told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Friday.

The Steelers have just four days between the Jets game and a Thursday night meeting with the Carolina Panthers, so Polamalu might not be healed in time. And if the Steelers clinch a playoff spot after those games, they could opt to rest Polamalu some more and hold him out of the Jan. 2 regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns.

Polamalu is a huge reason the Steelers (10-3) sit in first place over the Baltimore Ravens (9-4) in the AFC North. The star safety, whose late sack and forced fumble set up Pittsburgh's winning touchdown in a 13-10 victory over Baltimore on Dec. 5, has four interceptions in his last four games, including two returned for a touchdown.

"No one is playing as good as Troy Polamalu in football right now, in my opinion," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week. "When we need a play, he provides it."

Polamalu, a five-time Pro Bowl pick in his eighth NFL season, has 62 total tackles, six interceptions and one sack this year.

Notes: Linebacker James Harrison (illness) practiced after being out for two days. ... Tight end Heath Miller (concussion), who sat out Thursday's practice with a headache, also practiced and is listed as questionable.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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