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Old 08-10-2009, 05:53 PM   #1
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Default Guessing game? Not for instinctive Polamalu

Guessing game? Not for instinctive Polamalu

The Associated Press

LATROBE, Pa. - Now we know why Troy Polamalu often makes plays that would be difficult for another safety. Why he always seems to be in the right spot for the interception or the tackle, his trademark long hair flowing behind him.

He cheats. Sort of.

According to his teammates, Polamalu is so instinctive, he's the one member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' secondary allowed to ignore the defense that is called and gamble when he's certain he knows what the offense will do. It's called cheating on a play and, the Steelers say, Polamalu does it better than anyone.

Hence the nickname given him by cornerback Ike Taylor, who regularly covers for Polamalu when the five-time Pro Bowl strong safety takes off on his own: "1,000 percent." As in Polamalu guesses right 1,000 percent of the time.

"We let Troy be Troy," Taylor said. "You can only coach a guy like that so much. You've got to eventually let him go out and play. When he's just playing, there's no other safety like him. He's got good instincts. If he tells me to do something, and I've got to cover for him, I do it because I know he's going to be right."

To Taylor, there's a major difference between freelancing , which defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau allows no Steelers player to do , and deciphering an opponent's code.

"If he sees something on tape, or he sees it on the field, and he's got a feeling it's coming, and he lets one of us know, Troy's got the green light," Taylor said. "Ain't nobody going to freelance, not in coach LeBeau's defense. But at the same time, the coaches can only do so much until we get out there on the field. If guys have a certain idea or feeling, especially when you have a guy like Troy, we let him play. Troy's instincts are so far up there."

Polamalu's ability to alter games was evident during the Steelers' Super Bowl run. His 40-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Steelers' first in a playoff game, sealed Pittsburgh's 23-14 victory over Baltimore in the AFC championship game.

"It's all the confusion," said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, whose team lost to Pittsburgh the week before in the AFC playoffs. "Polamalu makes them unique. He's all over the place. They give you so many messy looks, so many blitzes."

So much to watch out for, too. Polamalu is a master of disguise, lining up in one position before the snap only to fly to another once the play begins, or jumping into a blitzing lane when it appears he will be in coverage. His seven interceptions last season were more than the other Steelers' defensive backs combined and were only two behind NFL leader Ed Reed of Baltimore.

Polamalu is also known for his recklessness, his willingness to liberally throw his body around in a sport where each player, on average, sustains at least one injury per season. While he sometimes isn't the most talked-about safety in his own division , that's Reed, the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year , Polamalu is a primary reason Pittsburgh's defense was the league's best statistically the last two seasons.

"He comes out of nowhere," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, referring to plays such as Polamalu's improbable, one-handed scoop interception against the Chargers last season. "When Troy starts running with the ball, you never know what's going to happen."

A year ago, the Steelers weren't certain what would happen with Polamalu when the season began. He missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury that limited him to two plays in the exhibition season, yet was nearly at peak efficiency once the games started counting.

Polamalu, 28, is getting plenty of time off in this camp, too, if only because coach Mike Tomlin wants to make sure he saves his body for the season.

"I'm very happy with the way things are progressing," Polamalu said. "I think coach Tomlin is happy with the way our team's been progressing. I feel I'm light years ahead of last year, when I didn't practice at all during camp."

When a player is as physical as Polamalu, especially at a skill position, it can be difficult to sustain a long career. Polamalu has had at least seven concussions during his career, a worrisome number for any player, but not enough yet to convince him he should be winding down his career.

"I think everybody comes in with an idea of how many years they want to play. But I'm kind of just rolling along," Polamalu said. "It's not like a teaching job, where you can say I'm going to be there for 30 years. If you're lucky to make it that far, who knows if you want to go even farther. You have to have a certain respect for the game that you don't want to sell yourself short."
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Old 08-11-2009, 08:01 AM   #2
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Default Re: Guessing game? Not for instinctive Polamalu

Every time I think about Troy I always think about that interception in his 1st (or 2nd) year against Cincinnati when he ran all over the place, then ran Palmer over at the goal line to score.

One of my favorite plays I've seen in 'recent' years.
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