|Will linebacker LaMarr Woodley play against the Bengals on Sunday? He took a major step by participating in Monday's practice. (US Presswire)|
Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, suffering from a sore right hamstring, worked out with his teammates during Monday's two-hour practice and should start against the Bengals on Sunday night if he continues to improve.
The only defensive starter likely to miss the divisional game in Cincinnati is safety Troy Polamalu (right calf), who has missed three games and parts of the other two for the Steelers (2-3). Polamalu missed Monday's "bonus" practice, along with many others.
The Steelers were off Friday through Sunday after losing to Tennessee on Thursday.
"It'll be good if we can get Woodley back," linebacker Larry Foote said. "He's a big part of our linebacking corps and our defense overall."
The Steelers' offensive line was hit the hardest last week, as center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (lower leg) are likely to be out Sunday. Doug Legursky replaced Pouncey at center, and rookie Mike Adams said he expected to start for Gilbert. If the Steelers dress seven players, as expected, rookie Kelvin Beachum would be a reserve tackle, while John Malecki -- a Pittsburgh native -- would be the backup at center and guard.
Also on offense, running back Rashard Mendenhall, who missed the first three games while battling back from offseason right knee surgery, suffered a bruised left Achilles. He's optimistic that he'll play Sunday.
"This is just something that has happened, and I'm going to keep working hard to get ready for this next game,'' Mendenhall said. "It's a little tight right now, but I plan on working through it. So, I'm not really worried about it right now. I'm not really frustrated at all.
"I've been in this position before, so I'll just keep working at it to get back to where I want to be. Coming off a knee injury, I'm sure I favored it a little bit. So, that probably played a part of this, as well as it being a short week for us, but I'll just continue to work. It's a long process, coming off major surgery, so I'll keep working hard and moving forward.''
With running back Isaac Redman also struggling with an ankle injury, first-year player Baron Batch is the most healthy back in the rotation. Jonathan Dwyer has been inactive the past couple weeks.
"I don't look at it like I'm the man at all,'' Batch said. "I'm No. 20, the black guy that plays for the Steelers, plays some special teams here and there, and I'm just trying to get better. I wouldn't call myself the man, but Rashard and Isaac had a long weekend, so I'm sure they'll be ready to go. And I'll just continue to play my role, whatever that is this week.''
Ta'amu situation remains cloudy: Rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu was not available Monday after a police chase and arrest early Sunday morning on multiple felony charges. The team released a statement that it would make a decision on his status after gathering more information.
"It's a tough situation,'' starting nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "You really feel bad for the kid, but he made a mistake. And that's the way I look at it. We still love him, but the guy made a mistake. Not taking away from what he did, because it was a terrible thing. ... I talked to him.
"He's real emotional and feels really bad. He knows it was a bad thing that happened, and he just has to grow from it. It's up to the (management), but I know in this locker room ... his teammates know that he's a great guy.
"You hate to see that happen to a guy like him. But at the same time, he has to make better decisions. He's a grown man, and he has to make grown-man decisions. He has to do a better job with that, but I'm going to support the kid all that I can and do whatever I can to be here for him. That's what he needs from me.''
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