By Teresa Varley
Coach Mike Tomlin delivered the good news first during his weekly press conference - running back Willie Parker and safety Troy Polamalu are scheduled to return to practice on Wednesday.
But then, it was the bad news.
Defensive end Aaron Smith suffered a right shoulder injury against the Lions, an injury that could be "significant."
"The most significant injury of note is Aaron Smith," said Tomlin. "He has a right shoulder injury, one that is being evaluated right now and potentially could be significant. We'll deal with that information as we get it. At this point we are evaluating him and potentially he could definitely be out of this football game.
"I don't know the answer to the length of time at this point. I will acknowledge that (the injury) is potentially significant. He hurt it in the football game."
If Smith is unable to go this week or beyond, Tomlin is looking at a group effort to fill the void, a group that includes Travis Kirschke, who suffered tightness in his back against the Lions, Nick Eason, who was inactive for the game, and rookie No. 1 pick Ziggy Hood, who has seen some playing time but is still a work in progress.
"He has played in just about every football game," said Tomlin of Hood. "He has played on special teams in some games; he has had more defensive snaps in others. He played a pretty significant portion of the game this week. He is a young guy who is on the come. He has a lot of talent. He is not out of the oven yet, if you will, and we acknowledge that. He acknowledges that. As long as we continue to do that he will move in the right direction. He will continue along those lines in terms of participation. By no means is Ziggy Hood a potential replacement for Aaron Smith at this point. It will probably be a committee of bodies to try and fill that void."
Polamalu returned to practice in a limited role in the days leading up to the game against the Lions for his first action since spraining the knee in the second quarter of the season opener, but Parker has not practiced at all since injuring his toe in Cincinnati.
"We are looking forward to getting Willie Parker and Troy back to work," said Tomlin. "Both guys are scheduled to participate in practice tomorrow. We'll let those guys do that, hopefully without any limitations but we'll be light on our feet. We'll evaluate the availability as they proceed in the week. It will be interesting to see how they respond on Thursday morning after having a day's work on Wednesday. We'll continue to monitor those situations day to day."
Also on the injury front Trai Essex and Andre Frazier will be limited in practice early in the week, and Tomlin said Chris Kemoeatu got through the game in Detroit without re-injuring his ankle.