The Steelers and Panthers will do battle Thursday night in a game that has plenty of implications for both clubs. Pittsburgh has clinched a playoff spot, but can lock up the AFC North as well as the conference’s No. 2 seed with a win over Carolina followed by a Week Sixteen Browns win over Baltimore.
The Panthers hurt their chances of securing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft with a Week Fifteen win over the Cardinals. John Fox’s team can improve its chances in the Andrew Luck derby with a loss to Pittsburgh.
Both teams issued an injury report on Monday. Notably for the Steelers, safety Troy Polamalu returned to practice on a limited basis. Polamalu did not play in Sunday’s loss to the Jets, but appears to be targeting Thursday night to make his return.
Tight end Heath Miller has missed the last two games with a concussion. He is not on the Week Sixteen injury report and should be available against the Panthers. Defensive end Aaron Smith, still recovering from triceps surgery, was the only Steeler to miss practice.
For the Panthers, key defensive end Tyler Brayton missed practice with a hip injury. Nickel back/punt returner Captain Munnerlyn sat out Monday for “personal” reasons. Starting fullback Tony Fiammetta (ankle) also did not participate.
Starting guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (knee) was limited. So too were starting right tackle Garry Williams (knee) and cornerback Chris Gamble (ankle).