Ward, Gay might not see field in Week 14

Updated: December 7, 2009, 7:02 PM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- Not only are the Steelers frustrated with their season-high four-game losing streak, but the defending champs are also ailing.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said Monday that team captain and veteran receiver Hines Ward is "very questionable" with a hamstring injury for Thursday's game against the Cleveland Browns. Ward was injured late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

"We'll see where it goes, but it's not favorable for him," Tomlin said.

Starting cornerback William Gay also suffered a concussion and will go through a battery of tests. Considering the short week, it's likely Gay won't see the field on Thursday. Rookie cornerback Joe Burnett would start in Gay's place, according to Tomlin; fellow rookie Keenan Lewis would also see some playing time.

Defensive end Ziggy Hood and wide receiver Mike Wallace also might earn elevated status for the Browns game. Wallace is expected to start if Ward can't go.

Tomlin added that, for the first time this season, the coaching staff is looking to make significant changes in the starting lineup in all three phases in an effort to end the losing streak. Pittsburgh (6-6) has to run the table in the final four games to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Tomlin isn't worried about how veterans on his team will respond if changes are made.

"They're pros," Tomlin said. "I think they understand it, and I think to a degree they'll agree with me. That's the nature of this thing. We can't stay status quo in terms of how we approach this thing and expect guys' behavior or the outcome to change. That's unrealistic.

"That's hoping and this is not a hope business. I'm not a hope-mentality person."

In other injury news, Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu (knee) also is not expected to play Thursday. Starting running back Rashard Mendenhall (ankle) will be limited in practice this week but is expected to play.

James Walker covers the AFC North for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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