PITTSBURGH — Will Allen is the next man up for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 11-year veteran will start for injured strong safety Troy Polamalu when the Steelers (6-3) face the New York Jets (1-8) on Sunday.
Polamalu suffered a knee sprain near the end of the first half against the Ravens and already has been ruled out. Polamalu's whirling-dervish defensive style is difficult to replicate, and his Pro-Bowl credentials are tough to match as well, but Allen noted that no adjustments are necessary.
"We just go out and play the way that we have in any other week," Allen said. "As long as we play hard and play together, we'll be able to do what we've always done in the secondary, whether it's the starters or some backups playing in the game."
Allen will be paired with free safety Mike Mitchell, who is in his first season with the Steelers. While Polamalu worked out on his own this past spring and didn't participate during the preseason, Allen and Mitchell played together.
"Some of the X-factor goes away because offenses have a tough time accounting for what Troy does," Mitchell said. "He creates a lot of that by himself. But we played pretty well together earlier this year, so I'm confident that we'll pick up where we left off."
The Steelers defense has taken a serious hit this year. Starting linebackers Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier, along with cornerback Ike Taylor, all were lost during a Week 3 victory at Carolina. Now, Polamalu is out indefinitely, and Jason Worilds (abdomen) missed Wednesday's practice. Taylor isn't concerned.
"When you see young guys contributing and making plays, it's good for me to see," Taylor said. "And it's even better for the team. But we're talking about depth, and veterans like Will Allen fit right in with the young guys."
Allen has been a special teams ace throughout his career, but he also was a spot-starter with seven as a Steelers safety in 2012 when Polamalu missed nine games. So, the experience factor is there as well.
"Will has played a lot of good football for us in the past, and I'm very confident that he'll do a good job," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "We'll miss Troy, because he's a great player. (But) throughout the league, in every city, they're going to have games where they have to go without some of their people. And we're just without Troy this week."
Notes: Worilds returned to practice Thursday, while Taylor (right forearm) and S Ross Ventrone (hamstring) participated on a limited basis. . Taylor said he's ready to return as soon as he gets medical clearance. . Jones got the cast off his right wrist this week and expected to return by the end of the month. . Polamalu, Shazier (right knee sprain) and S Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) are out this week. Shazier re-injured himself against the Ravens after missing four previous weeks. The same for Thomas, who injured his other leg after missing several previous weeks.
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