Browns coach Eric Mangini practically rolled his eyes when it was suggested that Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu seems likely to return this week after missing all but two quarters of the season with a sprained left knee.
That scenario appeared even more likely Wednesday when Polamalu participated fully in practice after being limited last week.
Also participating fully was running back Willie Parker, who's missed two games with a toe injury. Second-year man Rashard Mendenhall has stepped up in Parker's absence, but Parker is still listed as the starter on this week's depth chart.
Mangini knows what Polamalu, a five-time Pro Bowler, means to the Steeler defense.
''He's a special player at his position,'' Mangini said. ''He's fun to watch from my background, being in the secondary and being on defense. He has great closing speed. He's an excellent tackler. He's a good blitzer. He has good hands. He seems like a really good person. You appreciate those things from the outside looking in. He's hard to handle.''
Missing practice for the Steelers were guard Trai Essex (ankle), linebackers James Farrior (elbow) and Andre Frazier (thigh), defensive end Travis Kirschke (back) and receiver Hines Ward (not injury related).
As for the Browns injury report, sitting out were Kenyon Coleman (groin), tight end Steve Heiden (knee) and nose tackle Shaun Rogers (personal reasons). Among those limited were linebacker Eric Barton (neck), kicker Phil Dawson (right calf), tight end Robert Royal (foot, finger), linebackers Kamerion Wimbley (shoulder) and D'Qwell Jackson (hamstring) and running back Jamal Lewis (hamstring).