[url="http://www.metronews.ca//calgary/sports/article/319788--no-polamalu-bengals-palmer-certainly-delighted-by-his-absence"]http://www.metronews.ca//calgary/sports ... is-absence[/url]
PITTSBURGH - One Steelers player after another is saying it: These aren't the Bengals who have lost their last eight home games against the Steelers. These aren't the Bengals who have beaten Pittsburgh only twice in 11 games.
What they aren't saying is this: These aren't the same Steelers who won those games, either.
As long as the Steelers are without injured all-pro safety Troy Polamalu, they probably won't be as intimidating defensively as they were while winning the Super Bowl twice in the last four seasons. Polamalu is arguably the one player who separates the Steelers from other teams, the one player who is the most difficult to replace.
"The difference (without Polamalu) is obvious to everybody," free safety Ryan Clark said Wednesday.
Polamalu will miss his second game in a row Sunday due to a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, and he could be out for as long as another month after that.
The Bengals are all but issuing this plea: Hey Troy, don't rush back.
"I'm absolutely glad he's not going to be out there," said quarterback Carson Palmer, Polamalu's friend and former roommate at Southern Cal. "We need to win this game, and our chances are better when Troy is not on the football field. That goes for whoever plays against the Steelers. When your best player is not on the field, you're not at full strength."
Especially when that all-pro player's possible replacement was passed over by every other team in the league last season.
Tyrone Carter, the 10-year veteran who was picked on regularly Sunday by Bears quarterback Jay Cutler during Pittsburgh's 17-14 loss, might not play in Cincinnati because of a bruised left thigh. If he can't go, former West Virginia safety Ryan Mundy would make his first NFL start.
Mundy was a sixth-round pick who was cut at the end of training camp a year ago before re-signing with the Steelers during the off-season.
Mundy said the worst thing he could do would be to try to replicate Polamalu's playmaking ability.
"I'm not trying to be Troy," Mundy said. "I'm trying to be the best Ryan Mundy I can be. Troy has been very helpful to me, giving me tips and reminders and everything like that. Coach (Mike) Tomlin said the standard is the standard every week, week in and week out. I just try to live up to that standard."
The trouble is, Polamalu sets so high a standard that it's difficult for any backup to match him.
Cutler often tried to lock into his tight ends when Carter was in coverage over the middle. Palmer goes to his tight ends, though usually not as much: Daniel Coats (three catches, 42 yards) and J.P. Foschi (two catches, 15 yards) had five catches between them as the Bengals lost in the closing seconds to Denver, 12-7, but won at Green Bay, 31-24.
Polamalu or no Polamalu, new safety or no new safety, Clark all but said the Bengals (1-1) won't be able complete deep balls against the Steelers (1-1).
"The one thing you don't see when you watch our games is the guy running down the sidelines free, catching touchdowns for 80 yards, 70 yards. You don't see the things like (Titans running back) Chris Johnson not being covered (out of the backfield)," Clark said. "We do those little things that make it hard for teams to score."
However, the Bears scored in the final minute of the first half and the game, and the Bears also had a 72-yard touchdown drive.
"I think there's been a little panic over the fact people have been able to move the ball. Still, in all, they (the Bears) scored 17 points," Clark said. "There's no reason to panic, we're not going to be perfect every week, we're not going to shut every team out. Chicago did a good job of moving the ball and scoring some points but we're going to stick with the same thing."
Wonder if Chad Ochocinco, who has nine catches and a 20 yards per catch average, was listening?
"I'm always a fan of the competition, always," Ochocinco said. "He (Polamalu) is a force to be reckoned with. He makes their defence what it is. I'm not taking anything away from the other players and what they have there, but he's really good."