The sigh of relief began in coach Mike Tomlin's office and no doubt spread throughout the Steelers' practice building.
Polamalu hasn't been ruled out of Sunday's game at Kansas City despite injuring his left knee for the second time this season. However, it seems more likely he will miss one game and attempt to return for an AFC North game at Baltimore on Nov. 29.
Polamalu is "questionable at best" for the game against the Chiefs (2-7), according to Tomlin.
Questionable is a lot better than out, which is what the Steelers (6-3) feared their defensive star would be after he strained a posterior cruciate ligament tackling running back Cedric Benson early in Cincinnati's 18-12 victory on Sunday.
"He is in a great frame of mind. He feels really good, but we're going to follow the expert advice that we get from our medical staff in terms of how we proceed," Tomlin said Tuesday. "In the short term, we're going to take it day to day. But [it's] really encouraging, more encouraging, I think, than was initially anticipated."
Polamalu, a five-time Pro Bowl player, missed the Steelers' sec
ond through fifth games with a medial collateral ligament sprain, and he played less than a half in their opener against Tennessee. The Steelers (6-3) lost two of the four he missed, and all three of their losses occurred when Polamalu was out or played only a single series.
The latest injury is not as bad as initially feared, Tomlin said, because it did not affect the previously injured ligament.
"It happens to be the same knee," Tomlin said. "There is no setback in regards to his MCL. This is a PCL strain. We'll let it run its course and see how he feels. ... Everyone's initial response was it was a re-injury and that appears not to be the case. It's the same knee, but it's not a re-injury. It doesn't appear to be as significant as the MCL."
The ligaments that Polamalu injured are two of the four that connect the bones of the knee joint.
The medial collateral ligament is located on the inner side of the knee and stabilizes the knee's motion from side to side. The posterior cruciate ligament is inside the knee joint and teams with the anterior cruciate ligament to secure the knee. Those two cross in the middle of the knee and control the joint's forward and backward motion.
Polamalu missed five games with knee and rib injuries in 2007 but played every game last season as the Steelers won the Super Bowl. He has three interceptions in five games this season, despite playing minimally in two games.