By Teresa Varley
The Steelers returned to familiar surroundings on Tuesday, practicing at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex for the first time since breaking camp on Sunday.
And they practiced with a familiar face making his return.
Safety Troy Polamalu was back on the field after spending the entire camp sidelined with a hamstring injury and feeling more like a coach watching from the sidelines than a player.
"It felt good. I think it felt fine," said Polamalu of his first practice. "It's nice to get out there and put the pads on and really feel like a part of the team."
His return was a welcome sight for those on the defense.
"Just his presence is amazing," said cornerback Deshea Townsend. "The main thing for our defense is having another playmaker out there. The more playmakers you can put on the field the better for your defense.
"He looked fine. He was running out there, hitting some people. I think that is the main thing he wanted to get done - to tap somebody. Just to get a little nudge and see if the shoulder pads feel like they fit right and all. He looked great out there."
While Polamalu wants nothing more than to play on Saturday night in the team's preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, he knows he has to be smart about it and not rush things.
"It's so close to the season you don't want an injury to set you back during the season," said Polamalu. "I am learning to be more patient. It's not easy, not for anybody.
"I want to be at full strength against the Houston Texans. That is my concern. I also want to be ready physically. I would like to get some preseason reps. We'll see."
While his teammates want him out there on Saturday, they too know what is most important.
"That's what I tell all of the guys, it's good to have you out there but I don't need you to be there until September 7 (against Houston)," said Townsend. "Get out there when it really counts and you are 100 percent. With a player like him you have to allow him to get his body 100 percent ready. The season is so long you have to be totally healthy before it all starts."
Head coach Mike Tomlin said that Polamalu's status for Saturday will be dictated by how he feels on Wednesday morning and the days leading up to the game.
"He ran around and looked pretty good," said Tomlin. "We will continue to take it day-to-day. We'll see how he feels (Wednesday) and then proceed from there. We are being cautious about how we get back out. We can't take steps backwards as we proceed and we are very conscious of that."