Hard-hitting veteran safety Troy Polamalu is expected to start Saturday for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs after missing two games with a knee injury.
Polamalu, an eight-time Pro Bowler from USC, has played in 14 career postseason games, which includes two matchups with the Ravens and two Super Bowl victories.
"I needed to see him prepare," Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin told the Steelers' website. "Sometimes a guy is able to play at the 11th hour and they don't get the in-helmet preparation over the course of the workweek. When you get to January football and the stakes are high, detail is going to define you. Not only him but us, and you need that in-helmet preparation to do it. He was able to practice this week, and so that made the decision easier."
Polamalu has 61 tackles and a fumble recovery this season.
The Steelers defense has given up 253 yards per game through the air this year. In their first meeting with the Ravens, Pittsburgh held quarterback Joe Flacco to 166 passing yards, but lost the game, 26-6.
The second time around, Flacco passed for 303 yards, but had two passes intercepted and the Steelers came away with the win, 43-23.
The Steelers defense forced seven turnovers in their last four games, three of those interceptions.
Kickoff at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field is at 5:15 p.m. Pacific time.
The Steelers have won all three of their postseason meetings with the Ravens going back to 2001. All of those games were also played in Pittsburgh.
"If this is a classic Baltimore-Steelers game and it's the team with the best net punting average that wins, then they have to be super stout," Tomlin said. "If it's a shootout and it's going back and forth, then we need a play late in the fourth quarter. I really don't care. They need to be whatever it is we need them to be to get out of the stadium tonight."