Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu (43) dives to tackle Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) in the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
With the season looming and the Steelers looking like a team who could have record anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6, a lot will be asked out of Troy Polamalu; the veteran strong safety who enters his 11th year in the league.
The accomplishments of Polamalu are well documented. His Hall of Fame resume already boasts 640 career tackles, 10 sacks and 30 interceptions. He’s always a factor on the field and opposing offenses must account for where he is at all times. However, in recent years, his age and style of play have caught up to him slightly, specifically last year when he was limited to playing in 7 games.
This year the team needs Polamalu to come back to form. They’ll need that hair flowing behind his helmet for all 16 games and he’ll need to be a true leader on the field through his play and his presence.
Sure, he may have lost a step but what he’s lost physically, he’s gained mentally. At this point in his career he’s seen and done it all. He can read plays before they happen, he can still be the x factor in stuffing the run, blitzing the quarterback or dropping back into pass coverage. The team is in transition and while you’ll still see several familiar faces on the defense, young guys like Shamarko Thomas, Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds and Cortez Allen can all benefit from Polamalu’s vast wealth of knowledge. Playing with him in the trenches can only strengthen their abilities and help them grow as football players and men in general.
At this point in his career Polamalu is similar to Ray Lewis (my apologies for even comparing him to a Raven but the comparison on the field fits, certainly not off of it) from last year’s Ravens team. Like Polamalu, Lewis wasn’t what he used to be but he was still better than most guys on the field. Lewis inspired that team and was an additional coach on the field. Just being out there with him raised the game of the players around him. They played with Lewis but also for him. Polamalu is that guy this year for the black and gold.
He can be an inspiration, a leader and a factor that helps push this team to victory.