PITTSBURGH – Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is hopeful his key injured players will return this week.
Tomlin expects Maurkice Pouncey to practice on Wednesday, and he expects Ben Roethlisberger and LaMarr Woodley to possibly join him. And those who practice will play on Sunday at Cleveland in the regular-season finale against the Browns.
"Hopefully we get all of those guys back," Tomlin said at his weekly Tuesday press conference. "It's our intention right now that if a guy's healthy enough to practice and prepare, then we'll play him."
Tomlin was asked if he might consider pulling a player from the game in anticipation of a playoff game either the following week or following a first-round bye.
The Steelers will receive a first-round bye if they beat the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals beat the visiting Baltimore Ravens. Both games have been moved to 4:15 p.m. ET on Sunday.
"I haven't determined that at this juncture, and I probably won't," Tomlin said. "Those are easy decisions to make as games, situations unfold."
The only injured players not expected back this week are third-down running back Mewelde Moore (MCL sprain) and left guard Doug Legursky (left shoulder subluxation).
The offensive line will have Pouncey back at center from his ankle sprain and Trai Essex at left guard on Wednesday.
Tomlin is unsure when rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert will return to the starting lineup. Gilbert was benched in favor of Jonathan Scott on Saturday after missing a meeting during the week.
"He's got some growth and maturity things we want to address," said Tomlin, who said he was not surprised by such behavior this late in the season.
"Nothing surprises me when it comes to rookies," Tomlin said. "And that's probably an appropriate mentality to have."
As for Roethlisberger, Tomlin will decide the quarterback's practice potential on Wednesday, and Tomlin's decision, he said, will have nothing to do with Charlie Batch's winning performance last Saturday against the St. Louis Rams.
"I thought he did some really good things," Tomlin said of Batch. "Of course, his performance has no bearing on how we go about making the decisions that are going to be right for us. A lot of those center around Ben's health."
NOTES – Hines Ward needs five receptions for 1,000 in his career. ... Roethlisberger needs 144 yards passing for 4,000 this season. ... Rashard Mendenhall needs 110 yards rushing for 1,000 this season. ... Heath Miller needs one reception to tie Lynn Swann (336) for fourth place on the franchise's all-time list behind Ward (995), John Stallworth (537) and Louis Lipps (358). ... FS Ryan Clark leads the team with 96 tackles. SS Troy Polamalu is second with 88. ... Woodley and James Harrison each need one sack for their fourth consecutive seasons with double-digit sacks.