Did he or did he not?
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that safety Troy Polamalu has been symptom free since Sunday night after the Steelers announced he had "concussion-like symptoms" from a tackle he made against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tomlin added that Polamalu still will have to pass a "battery of tests" in order to play Sunday against Cincinnati and that "we are comfortable at this juncture that it will happen."
But, was it a concussion or not? Tomlin did not say, just as he and the Steelers did not say the previous time Polamalu was pulled from a game, Oct. 16, when he had "concussion-like symptoms" after a collision with Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew.
Polamalu has a long history of concussions, beginning with two in high school. He had three while playing at Southern California, and he has had two previously with the Steelers -- in 2006 and '08. That's seven documented concussions.
The two head shots to Polamalu this season either caused a concussion or they did not, yet the Steelers have not said one way or the other and are being roundly criticized for how they have explained the injuries.
NBC's Al Michaels, while broadcasting Sunday night's game, compared the Steelers to "old East Germany" for their lack of injury information. Mike Florio, who writes the widely read blog Pro Football Talk, wrote that "after the game, coach Mike Tomlin wouldn't admit that Polamalu suffered a concussion. Instead, Tomlin once again broke out a term that he has used at least twice before this season: 'concussion-like symptoms.' "
That other instance occurred when Hines Ward was pulled from the Nov. 6 game against Baltimore after taking a blow to the head.
But while the Steelers, in essence, say it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, they have not called it a duck. The NFL has tightened rules on how teams must deal with concussions and there have been suggestions that by not calling it a concussion, the Steelers are trying to hide something.
Yet, in all three cases, the Steelers did the right thing. They removed the player from the game and did not permit him to return, despite lobbying efforts by Ward and Polamalu. If a player is suspected of having a concussion, he cannot return to the game and must pass the ImPACT tests to play again. And just because a player takes a blow to the head does not mean he has a concussion. Polamalu could have been examined and been determined not to have any symptoms and been allowed to return to the game without breaking the rules.
"He was asymptomatic relatively quickly, and I am talking about Sunday night," Tomlin said of Polamalu's most recent head injury, in which he struck the knee of Kansas City tackle Steve Maneri. "If we are going to err, we are going to err on the side of caution when it comes to health, particularly from a head injury standpoint. I have no issue with that.
"We lean on the expert advice of our medical staff. Troy has been good. We anticipate it being a nonissue moving forward this week. Like I said earlier, we are not going to assume anything with a player's health, particularly when we are talking about a head injury."
Tomlin said the Steelers are aware of Polamalu's history of concussions and will proceed accordingly.
"Obviously, we are sensitive to his concussion history, and we are always going to exercise the necessary precaution when dealing with it."
At least this time, TV cameras did not catch Polamalu using a cell phone on the sideline to call his wife to let her know he was OK, so there will be no repeat of that $10,000 fine the NFL levied for doing so Oct. 16.