All eyes turned toward injured running back Le'Veon Bell all week. Bell will miss Saturday's playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, but quietly, the Steelers will see the return of its defensive captain, safety Troy Polamalu.
Polamalu injured his knee in the team's 27-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15, and he's missed the team's last two games. To a certain degree, the Steelers' defense has played well in Polamalu's absence. While they stuffed Kansas City's powerful running game, the Chiefs threw efficiently. The Bengals ran the ball well against the Steelers but couldn't make enough plays in the passing game.
Will Polamalu's return spark a defense that's been playing considerably better over the last few games, or will a potent Ravens offense exploit what looks like a slower Polamalu in coverage?
Polamalu may not play extensive snaps in the game, and the Steelers may still utilize safety Will Allen at the safety position opposite Mike Mitchell. Baltimore effectively picked apart instances in which the Steelers ran single-high safeties against them in Week 2, and got a 35-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith off single-high coverage in Week 9.
Polamalu's involvement in this game isn't the only issue facing the Steelers, but with a career of big plays coming at the expense of Baltimore, adding his first interception this season would certainly be worth the risk.