View Full Version : Better than ever - Steelers SS Troy Polamalu

12-25-2008, 09:17 PM
Better than ever

Steelers SS Troy Polamalu is having his finest season for Pittsburgh’s ferocious defense

By Jim Wexell
Dec. 25, 2008

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — It was just the other day that Steelers ROLB James Harrison was talking about Troy Polamalu.

“Listen here,” Harrison growled. “Troy is amazing. He’s really unbelievable. Things that I’ve seen him do on tape, where he’ll be all the way down in the box, down by the D-linemen, and he’ll have a deep pass and still get there, to have Troy in there disguising the look is really helpful.”

Funny that Harrison would talk about Polamalu standing pre-snap at the line but racing back for deep coverage, because just the other day LILB James Farrior was saying the opposite about Polamalu, something about the 2005 AFC championship game, when the Broncos were pinned deep near their endzone.

“He was 15 to 20 yards back and they threw a little check-down to the running back,” Farrior told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Before (Broncos RB Mike Anderson) even got past the goal line, Troy was hitting him.”

The power of Polamalu: If he’s not up and racing back, he’s back and racing up, or somersaulting for one of his league-leading interceptions, or covering Cowboys WR Terrell Owens man-to-man out of the slot.

Polamalu, the Steelers’ strong safety, was just named to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl. Even though he was one of the key pieces in the Steelers’ 2005 title run, Polamalu’s playing the best football of his life. Even iconic Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau says so.

“Oh, I think he is, yeah,” LeBeau said. “I just couldn’t name the amount of plays that he’s cut off with his range and his diagnostic intuition in just getting to where the ball is. When the ball’s breaking on him, he always shows up. If he doesn’t get the guy on the ground, he sure does slow him up long enough for the posse to get there. He’s invaluable to us back there. He’s done a great job all along, but this probably is his best year.”

Is that what LeBeau likes best about Polamalu? His versatility?

“Absolutely. You can do anything with him.”

The quietest man in the Steelers’ locker room, Polamalu hits big, covers deep and catches the ball like he’s Fred Biletnikoff all lathered up with Stickum. He’d love to leap over a goal-line pile with the ball like his childhood hero Walter Payton, but understands his position — now more than ever.

Even though LeBeau has given his 27-year-old strong safety a free run in his complex defense the past five seasons, Polamalu frequently sits back this year and lets the game come to him. And the ball, too.

“I’ve been more of a safety,” Polamalu said. “It’s working so far, and I think it’s because of the guys up front. I play back and we’ve been sitting and waiting for balls to fall in our lap.”

Does Polamalu prefer that style of play?

“I prefer winning,” he said. :tt03:

“He’s very unselfish and he’s not blitzing as much as he has in the past,” LeBeau explained. “He can make a lot of sacks and a lot of things happen, and we blitz him some, but you look at the number of big plays that have gotten in there on this defense and a great part of the credit goes to our safeties and where they’ve been back there to keep those plays from hitting us deep, and Troy and (FS) Ryan (Clark) together have been tremendous.

“Troy’s range, it just hits me whenever a play’s breaking. He always shows up, it seems like, and keeps it from going for a real big play.”

Going into Sunday’s game at Tennessee, the AFC North Division-champion Steelers boasted the No. 1 defense in the NFL. The driving force has been a pass rush that has racked up 48 sacks, a secondary that has allowed only one pass of more than 50 yards and a ballhawk who has notched seven interceptions. And two of Polamalu’s seven interceptions have already become part of Steelers lore. His somersaulting interception Sept. 21 against the Eagles off a deflected pass drew raves, but his miraculous scoop off the top of the Heinz Field lawn against the Chargers Nov. 16 will be remembered forever.

“That’s the best one I’ve ever seen,” said LeBeau, he of the 62 career interceptions and 50 years in the NFL. “That one he got off the ground, our guys up in the booth were saying he got it, and I said, ‘No, I was right here and he didn’t get that ball.’ But he did get it. That was the greatest. Now, the one in Indianapolis that they didn’t give us (2005 playoffs), that might’ve been the second-best one I’ve ever seen.

“You know,” LeBeau continued, “we see him do it on the practice field on a fairly regular basis, so I know he can do it, but that catch that he made on the ball he picked off the ground, I don’t think we’ll ever see that play duplicated.”

Is Polamalu the best safety in the game today?

“He is to me,” LeBeau said. “Now, I’m not sure that you’re getting an unbiased opinion on that, but I would pick him above all of them.”

Polamalu takes such compliments as you might imagine Jesus Christ taking them: He lowers his head and smiles in modesty, even embarrassment, and he replies as softly and sweetly as would Payton.

But those words can fire across the bow. He slipped what seemed at the time to be an innocuous comment on the evolution of the NFL into a running dialogue, calling it “kind of a pansy game.” It brought the NFL executives out en masse. They held an embarrassing dog-and-pony show for reporters at the Steelers’ South Side facility, only because one of the quietest players in the league had challenged the league’s collective manhood.

Polamalu’s reaction the next day?

“I’m done talking,” he said. “I don’t enjoy the spotlight.”

After a brief respite, Polamalu returned to the realm of public speaking — much to the delight of an expanding cult following that hangs on every one of his softly spoken words. Here’s a sampling of some of his remarks:

On standing behind CB Deshea Townsend when Townsend made his game-winning interception return for a touchdown against Dallas: “I probably would’ve dropped it.”

On his success: “I think Coach LeBeau’s doing a good job putting us in situations.”

On leading the league in interceptions: “When you’ve got guys like (CB) Ike (Taylor) pretty much locking down the best receivers, and you’ve got the front seven putting pressure on the quarterback, it gives you an opportunity to make plays.”

On whether his fantastic season is due more to good health or experience: “I couldn’t really say. Sometimes the ball just bounces your way.”

On his new muscular look: “More fat. But, yeah, I’m bigger than I had been in the past. This year I’m probably about 215. I like being lighter because I’m quicker, but I’ve stayed healthy.”

On the team’s success: “We’re really hungry right now.”

On the team’s identity: “We play kind of ugly, rough and physical, and we win, thank God. But the personality of the city matches the personality of the team. It’s so blue collar, and none of that New York-Los Angeles-Hollywood mentality within us, and we like that. We like to get all the attention at the Super Bowl.”:tt::tt:

At this point, the Super Bowl may be the Steelers’ destiny. And the quietest of them all is leading them.

(Troy Polamalu’s childhood in Tenmile, Ore., is featured in Jim Wexell’s new book, “Steeler Nation: A Pittsburgh Team, An American Phenomenon,” available at Pittsburghsportspublishing.com.)

12-25-2008, 09:20 PM
He really ought to be the MVP or at least DMVP.

For all the people (including me) who wrote him off as toast. Let us eat our pie.

He's amazing. :tt02:

12-25-2008, 10:17 PM
Ive said it before but I hope Troy takes the entire team to train with him in Cal this year.
Cowher did not allow Troy to train on his own and he was injured most of his seasons....

Train your way Troy....introduce it to the rest of the steelers
I dont think tomlin will have much issue with troy training on his own this year.... and I dont see anyone questioning him like they did last

12-26-2008, 02:00 AM
My boy troy is the best. Hands down the best defensive player on the team. I'm glad I got to meet and talk to troy, when he was at USC down here in LA.

Galax Steeler
12-26-2008, 05:57 AM
I love to watch Troy play he is just all over the field and making plays and tackles on just about every play.

12-26-2008, 06:11 AM
He’d love to leap over a goal-line pile with the ball like his childhood hero Walter Payton, but understands his position — now more than ever.

That's interesting. Didn't Payton also use strength and conditioning techniques that weren't considered typical by most professional football players?

12-26-2008, 07:48 AM
Excellent read on Troy mesa - thanks! :drink:

As awesome as our D is this season, there is no other player out there who I'd rather watch than Troy - he is a human tornado out there! :tt03:

12-26-2008, 08:19 AM
I so happy when I bought a jersey, I choose a premier #43. It will be a classic, just like the player it represents. Just like we see Lambert jerseys today, 20 years from now, people will still be wearing Polamalu jerseys.

Shreveport Steeler
12-26-2008, 12:08 PM
Troy is the best defensive player in the league. I know Ware and Reed are up there, but Troy is out there making INT's, TFL, and covering the whole field. I haven't seen many players in my lifetime that have an impact on defense like he does.

Stillers4Me, I just bought a premier #43 and will be wearing it for a long time! :tt:

12-26-2008, 12:34 PM
troy is amazing.......

the man just makes plays

12-26-2008, 02:30 PM
And that is why Troy is the best safety in the entire NFL. I would even take an 80% Troy over most NFL safeties playing. He just makes great plays and the offense has to game plan for Troy.