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Old 11-20-2006, 01:39 AM   #1
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Default Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level
Monday, November 20, 2006

By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

CLEVELAND -- In one marvelous three-play sequence late in the fourth quarter yesterday that went a long way toward determining a winner in the Steelers-Cleveland Browns game, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu showed why he's the NFL's best defensive player.

Or, as teammate Larry Foote put it, "He showed the little something extra he has inside him that the rest of us don't."

There was Polamalu's closing speed -- unmatched in the league -- that enabled him to run down Browns quarterback Charlie Frye for a sack and no gain on the Steelers' sideline.

There was Polamalu's extraordinary instinct to get to the football -- honed by hours of film study -- that enabled him to slice through the left side of the Browns' offensive line to tackle running back Jason Wright for a 2-yard gain.

And there was Polamalu's fabulous athletic ability that enabled him to pull up on a blitz and time a leap just right to bat down Frye's pass for tight end Kellen Winslow.

Three plays and out for the Browns when a first down or two could have meant the game.

The Steelers took over and scored the touchdown that gave them a 24-20 win and delayed the removal of life support on their teetering season for at least another week.

"I've been playing football a long time and I've never seen anyone make plays like he makes," Foote said of Polamalu. "I'm seeing plays that I'll never see again."

Here's the best part of Polamalu's day:

His three plays came at the most crucial time, but he made others that also amazed. After Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor gambled and lost trying to break up a Frye sideline pass for wide receiver Braylon Edwards in the second quarter, Polamalu ran down Edwards after a 63-yard gain to save a touchdown and, ultimately, four points that would have been huge at the end. But his best play might have been the way he closed to the sideline to tackle tight end Steve Heiden after a 6-yard gain on a third-and-7 play early in the third quarter. No other NFL player could have prevented that first down.

"I don't know if even Michael Johnson or some of the other great sprinters in the world have Troy's speed for 10 yards," Foote said. "There's nobody else as fast as he is for those first 10 yards."

Foote grinned and shook his head, then said something so quietly it almost was if he didn't want anyone to hear, like he feared he would be giving the rest of the NFL some sort of advantage with knowledge of his little nugget.

"Troy gets even faster on game day ...

"That's his will, his want-to."

Polamalu's performance was all the more remarkable because it came a week after he was concussed early in the game against New Orleans. That injury didn't draw quite the same attention that Ben Roethlisberger's concussion did a few weeks earlier, but it probably should have. Polamalu is as valuable to the Steelers' defense as Big Ben is to the offense.

"We've got the best doctor in the country, maybe in the world," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said of team neurological surgeon, Dr. Joseph Maroon. "If he says a player is not at risk, that doesn't just put my mind to rest. It puts Troy's to rest."

Polamalu said he never considered not playing yesterday. "That was my mind-set the whole time. You've got to approach it that way or you'd never be prepared to play at the end of the week."

The Browns certainly wish Polamalu had taken the day off. Winslow said as much before the game when he called him "phenomenal."

"He's the best player I've ever seen at safety. He's on a different level."

It was just that way until the final play of the game when Polamalu leaped higher than a man 5 feet 10 has a right to leap to get a hand on Frye's desperation pass in the end zone. It was just enough of a deflection to keep Edwards from making a miraculous catch.

"He's just one of those few guys in the league who's special," Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith would say moments later.

"I'm talking about guys like Randy Moss, Reggie Bush, Troy ... You see them, you see they have something special. They have a little different speed, a little different talent, a little different something.

"A gift from God. That's what it is. A gift from God."


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Old 11-20-2006, 01:47 AM   #2
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Default Re: Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

Polamalu's hustle, heart save Steelers

By John Harris
Monday, November 20, 2006


Shortly after the Steelers won the kind of game they have lost entirely too often this season, chairman Dan Rooney approached safety Troy Polamalu at his locker and inquired about his health.

"You all right?" Rooney asked.

Polamalu nodded yes. If Troy's OK, the Steelers are OK.

One week after suffering a concussion, Polamalu reminded everyone again Sunday why there's so much about him to like.

"It was my mindset the whole time to be able to play," said Polamalu, who received medical clearance early last week after suffering a concussion against New Orleans. "It's got to be that way, or else you'll never be prepared to play by the end of the week."

Any ill effects, Troy?

"I feel great. Thank you."

No one played a bigger role than Polamalu in the Steelers' 24-20 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Not even quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the gunslinger who passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns and guided the Steelers to a pair of clutch scores in the game's final 4 minutes, 14 seconds.

Polamalu was magnificent and magnaminous in victory.

"I can only line up where coach (Dick) LeBeau tells me to," said Polamalu, who was officially credited with seven tackles, one sack, one quarterback pressure and one pass defensed, along with a bunch of big plays that didn't appear on the stat sheet. "I think it's a testament to the calls of the defense, the way everybody plays and the trust we have back there."

Yeah, and if the little Dutch boy didn't stick his finger in the dike, someone else would have done it for him.

"We knew Troy was playing, and we knew we were going to get the great plays that Troy makes," linebacker Joey Porter said.

Modest to a fault, Polamalu was literally all over the field. He was a difference-maker in a game the 4-6 Steelers absolutely, positively, couldn't afford to lose.

There was the tackle in the second quarter, when Polamalu chased down Cleveland speed merchant Braylon Edwards from behind and prevented a long touchdown after Edwards made a catch to beat cornerback Ike Taylor along the sideline.

In a 40-yard sprint, Edwards would probably beat Polamalu nine out of 10 times, if not 10 out of 10. But when Polamalu, and the Steelers, needed it most, he shaved a fraction off his 40 time to make the touchdown-saving tackle at the Steelers' 19.

"Troy's got the fastest 10 yards in football," linebacker Larry Foote said. "I don't think Michael Johnson, one of the great sprinters, has a faster 10-yard sprint."

Instead of Cleveland building a 14-0 lead, the Steelers forced the Browns to settle for a field goal and a 10-0 advantage, thanks to Polamalu's all-out hustle play.

Said Polamalu: "I had a good angle. You have to have a good angle. He's very fast."

Then there was the Cleveland possession late in the fourth quarter, when the Steelers -- trailing, 20-17 -- needed their defense to turn the ball back over to the offense.

Polamalu was directly involved in all three plays.

On first down, Polamalu stopped quarterback Charlie Frye for no gain. On second down, Polamalu and nose tackle Casey Hampton combined to stop running back Jason Wright for a 2-yard gain. On third down, Polamalu, creeping toward the line of scrimmage, leaped high at the last second to bat down a Frye pass intended for tight end Kellen Winslow.

Oh, and did we mention that Winslow, one of the NFL's top receiving tight ends, was held to four catches for 36 yards by Polamalu and Co.?

The game finally came down to one last play. Needing a touchdown to win, Cleveland had the ball at the Steelers' 22 with 3 seconds remaining.

Hail Mary?

Heck, no.

Polamalu broke up Frye's pass for Edwards in the back of the end zone. Polamalu tipped the ball once, and Edwards tipped it twice before it fell incomplete, just out of Edwards' reach.

"You don't hear the crowd; you don't hear anything. It's like you're stuck in 'The Matrix,' " linebacker Clark Haggans said of the final play. "It's slow motion. You can't wait for that ball to hit the ground."

Polamalu kept his eye on the ball.

"The only guarantee they won't catch it is if it's in my hands," said Polamalu, the best safety in football.

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Old 11-20-2006, 01:52 AM   #3
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Default Re: Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

I'm so glad he's wearing the Black & Gold!!!
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Old 11-20-2006, 02:14 AM   #4
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Default Re: Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

We have Troy... Now wait another two years until we have our other young stud at free safety... it may be the hardest playing, hitting tandem in teh NFL
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Old 11-20-2006, 02:26 AM   #5
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Default Re: Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

Way cool. Great articles on Troy and his warrior heart and his gritty, gutsy playing style. Troy really played outside the atmosphere today. What an asset to our D. Here we go Steelers , Here we go.
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Old 11-20-2006, 03:11 AM   #6
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Default Re: Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

Our boy Troy is the best, and I hope we never lose him. He's truly irreplacable.
"Cheat THAT"!!! - Joey Porter after sacking Peyton Manning ('05 playoff game)
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Old 11-20-2006, 06:27 AM   #7
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Default Re: Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

Troy...........he was awesome yesterday!! I can't wait until my jersey gets here this week!!
"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."
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Old 11-20-2006, 09:36 AM   #8
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Default Re: Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

The FO needs to keep him here for the duration of his career. The guy is scary-good.
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Old 11-20-2006, 10:05 AM   #9
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Default Re: Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

i think the rooneys will gladly step up and make him the highest paid safety in the league. they really have no choise. he is doing to the safety position what LT did for linebackers, what reggie white did for linemen, and what deion sanders did for cb's.

his team mates almost seem in awe of him. in a room of what could be huge egos, i like how they defer to the most humble one as their unspoken leader.
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Old 11-20-2006, 10:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: Cook: Polamalu's play on a higher level

Who would you rather have..Troy on D?? or LJ toting the rock?

Another great draft choice for the Rooneys.


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