Coach Mike Tomlin indicated after weekend practices that the team is ready to remove Polamalu from the physically-unable-to-perform-list when the team breaks camp Monday at Saint Vincent College and heads back to the Pittsburgh facility.
Tomlin said he hopes Polamalu will be ready to practice Tuesday, but "we'll see where he is." Assuming there are no setbacks, the four-time Pro Bowler would play Saturday in a preseason game at Minnesota.
After an offseason of training almost exclusively in California in lieu of joining the team in organized activities, Polamalu "tweaked" his hamstring while running on his own a week before training camp began.
He took part in the traditional team conditioning test on the first day of camp but said that tired the leg and likely set him back. He watched the final camp practice Sunday as he has all the others -- on the sideline and in his practice jersey.
"I wish I would have at least caught one (camp practice)," Polamalu said.
Polamalu said he tried to come back too quickly during the early stages of camp, so he has stayed away from running and lifting in the past week, although he has been working out.
"I started training a little bit, but when I started running again in cleats, I think that's when I really aggravated it," Polamalu said. "So we shut it down."
The return of Polamalu would certainly boost a defense that has seen its first team scored upon after long drives early in each of the first two preseason games. Defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau has been known to use Polamalu in coverage or on blitzes, having him line up all over the field.
Polamalu missed five games last season due to rib and knee injuries, ailments that appeared to rob him of his explosiveness. He finished without a sack or an interception and with only 58 tackles (45 solo) but was still selected for the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive year.
"Everybody knows that he's somewhat of a catalyst for our defense, and rightfully so," Tomlin said. "He's a very good player, but his absence is by no means an excuse for poor performance."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press