Detroit, MI - The Pittsburgh Steelers won't leave with the Vince Lombardi Trophy this time, but their second consecutive victory and first road win would suffice.
Back at Ford Field on Sunday for the first time since their Super Bowl victory more than three years ago, the Steelers face a Detroit Lions team that could be without its starting quarterback.
Oddsmakers from online sports book BetOnline have made the Steelers –10.5 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on the Steelers –10.5 (View NFL bet percentages).
Pittsburgh hasn't played a road game against Detroit since a 19-16 overtime loss on Nov. 26, 1998, but the Steelers last played at Ford Field on Feb. 5, 2006, when they defeated Seattle 21-10 in Super Bowl XL.
While the buildup to Sunday's matchup pales in comparison to that surrounding the Steelers' last trip to the Motor City, coach Mike Tomlin sees plenty of value in a win over the lowly Lions.
"First of all, it's an important game because it's our next one, but we're trying to get a couple things done that we haven't done to this point in the year," Tomlin, in his third season, told the Steelers' official Web site.
"One is stacking victory performances on top of one another, trying to get consecutive wins. If you desire to be a world championship caliber team, like we do of course, you've got to be capable of doing that. Also, we're searching for our first road victory."
After suffering three-point losses at Chicago and Cincinnati the previous two weeks, Pittsburgh (2-2) scored the first 28 points in a 38-28 victory over visiting San Diego last Sunday night.
The Chargers outscored the Steelers 21-10 in the fourth quarter, continuing a disturbing trend for the reigning Super Bowl champs. Pittsburgh has been outscored 45-13 in the final 15 minutes of games this season.
"We haven't been able to finish, but this week we were able to,'' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after completing 26 of 33 passes for 333 yards and a season-high two touchdowns.
Starting in place of the injured Willie Parker (turf toe), second-year back Rashard Mendenhall set career highs with 29 carries and 165 rushing yards while scoring his first two career touchdowns.
Mendenhall had no carries in the Steelers' 23-20 loss to the Bengals the previous week after Tomlin felt he had a bad week at practice.
"I didn't have a chip on my shoulder,'' said Mendenhall, the AFC offensive player of the week. "(Tomlin) challenged me and it was a learning experience. I always had confidence in myself. I knew it was only a matter of time before I got an opportunity."
Parker did not practice Wednesday and didn't seem confident about returning Sunday.
"I'm a competitor and I want to compete and show the world what I've got but, at the same time, I've got to be smart about it,'' he said.
The Steelers, though, may get a boost on the other side of the ball if five-time Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu sees his first action since Week 1.
Polamalu went through a limited practice Wednesday for the first time since tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against Tennessee in the season opener Sept. 10.
"Troy's been doing well and progressing well,'' Tomlin said Tuesday. "Last week, he ran some in a straight line to pretty solid reviews. We'll take another step to see where he is. ... We'll get him back out there on the practice field and see how he responds to that.''
Without Polamalu, the Steelers' pass defense has struggled, giving up 218.2 yards per game - 15th in the NFL. Pittsburgh allowed a league-low 156.9 passing yards per game last season.
Even if Polamalu doesn't play Sunday, the Steelers' secondary might get a break if it faces Detroit second-string quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Regular starter Matthew Stafford twisted his right knee in last Sunday's 48-24 loss at Chicago.
The injury to the No. 1 overall draft pick punctuated a dreadful second half in which the Lions (1-3) were outscored 27-3 after an encouraging first half. Detroit was coming off a 19-14 win over Washington that snapped its 19-game losing streak.
Culpepper took reps with the first-team offense during Wednesday's practice while Stafford sat out.
"Daunte looked good - just like he did in the preseason,'' Lions safety Louis Delmas said.
If Stafford doesn't practice Thursday, first-year coach Jim Schwartz still won't rule him out as Sunday's starter.
Whoever starts under center would be at a major disadvantage if Calvin Johnson can't play. The third-year receiver was also held out of practice Wednesday after taking a helmet to the thigh in the fourth quarter last weekend.
Johnson had season highs with eight receptions and 133 yards against Chicago.
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward caught eight passes for a season-best 113 yards last Sunday. Ward, the Super Bowl XL MVP, needs 70 receiving yards Sunday to tie Andre Rison for 30th all-time with 10,205.
Pittsburgh has won 10 of its last 12 meetings with Detroit.
Posted: 10/7/09 11:24PM ET