By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com The Steelers could be without several starters on Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns because of injuries, including safety Troy Polamalu who is expected to miss his fourth straight game with a knee injury.
Cornerback William Gay suffered a concussion against the Raiders at Heinz Field on Sunday and will go through tests before he is given any type of green light to play.
"We'll take him through the procedure we take guys through coming off a concussion," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He will get a battery of tests, which will determine whether or not he is able to practice. If he is able to practice we'll check him for levels of discomfort and see where it takes us here in the week."
If Gay doesn't play, rookie Joe Burnett will get the start and Deshea Townsend will remain in the dime defense. Rookie cornerback Keenan Lewis would also get more playing time.
"We want to see both of those guys," said Tomlin. "They are young guys. We want to see both of those guys play."
Wide receiver Hines Ward is a question mark for Thursday night as well with a hamstring injury, suffered when he made a catch on an out-route in the closing moments against the Raiders.
"He is going to be very questionable this week," said Tomlin. "The hamstring is mild, but we are working on a very short week. We'll see where it goes, but not favorable for him."
If Ward doesn't play, that leaves the Steelers with just three healthy wide receivers – Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace and Limas Sweed – and they would consider signing another receiver before the game.
In other injury news quarterback Charlie Batch is going to get a soft cast and Tomlin is hopeful he will be able to participate in practice somewhat this week. Defensive end Travis Kirschke, who re-aggravated a calf strain causing him to miss the Raiders game, is expected to return to action against the Browns. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has minor swelling in his left ankle that will limit him in practice on Tuesday, but won't prevent him from playing on Thursday.
Tomlin also said there are other bruises that need to heal, and they aren't all physical.
"The other bumps and bruises are just that, including the emotional ones," said Tomlin. "We'll mend those as well and we better do it quickly because we have a game to play on Thursday night.
"You got to acknowledge the potential that this could be a shaken group. We swallowed a lot here of late. We're going to have to become one with ourselves individually and collectively. I am going to be looking very closely at these men. It's going to provide quality information for me in terms of who is legitimately mentally tough and who can stand the test of some adversity because we have some. And who is going to lead the charge more than anything of getting us out of this and winning a football game. I am going to be very interested in seeing who those people are and who they aren't."