View Full Version : Steelers safety Polamalu means danger for opponents

01-27-2009, 01:12 AM
Steelers safety Polamalu means danger for opponents

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football ... malu_N.htm (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/2009-01-26-polamalu_N.htm)

By Skip Wood, USA TODAY
TAMPA He seems to be the kind of nice young man one might be inclined to bring home and meet Mom and Dad.

Troy Polamalu sits, wearing a baby-blue shirt with his famously long hair tied neatly behind his neck.

He speaks in an easygoing, soft-spoken tone.

So it was about three hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety arrived here late Monday morning in preparation for Sunday's Super Bowl XLIII matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.

But appearances can belie much.

Polamalu greeted the assembled news media with something of a polite nod and a bit of a wicked wink.

Asked about the top-ranked Steelers defense and its penchant for trash- talking, Polamalu quickly and proudly nodded.

Yep, he pointed out, guilty as charged.

"It's cool, though," he said. "You know, Pittsburgh's always been nasty. We've always had that kind of nasty mentality on our defense."

Polamalu, though, has something of a graceful nastiness.

Yes, he will streak in on a blitz and harass a quarterback like nobody's business. He's more than willing to smack a receiver silly when provided the opportunity.

But he also will use his nimble hands to pluck a football from the sky, as he did against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, and return it 40 yards for a touchdown.

In other words, there's a reason he recently was selected for his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl.

And there's a reason he no doubt will be key factor Sunday.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn't hesitate when asked about just that.

"If you are asking about the game plan, we are in the process of developing that, (but) if you are asking about Troy (Polamalu) the player, he is an integral part of every game that we play because he is that good," Tomlin says. "When he walks out of the tunnel with a helmet on, he's going to be a factor in the football game. I don't expect that to change in Tampa."

Neither does Polamalu, who knows his defense will be faced with a three-pronged pickle.

There's Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who still knows a thing or two about solving defenses.

There's Cardinals running back Edgerrin James, who appears to have come close to recapturing the form that bedeviled opponents when he played for the Indianapolis Colts.

And there's Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who in this postseason has established himself as a threat no member of the opposing secondary should take lightly.

Polamalu certainly isn't.

"He's a great athlete and he's gonna make plays," Polamalu said. "But guys are in position, that's the thing."

In other words, a defense can do its best and yet

"When you're in position and he's still making plays, there's nothing you can do and you just kind of realize that he's a great player," he says.

All Polamalu has to do is look in the mirror.

Especially considering the season he had, which came on the heels of 2007's injury-filled campaign. He was named to the Pro Bowl last season despite starting just 11 games because of injuries to his knee and wrist. The injuries raised questions about his aggressive style of play.

But now he's back, and he's in fine form.

He had a career-high seven interceptions, tied for second in the NFL, and was fourth on the team in tackles with 73.

So when Fitzgerald scans the Book of Polamalu, he comes away duly impressed.

"He's arguably the best safety in the business," Fitzgerald says. "He's all over the field. He causes so much disruption. You have to know where he's at, and then right when you think he's over here, he's in your backfield or he's picking off a play on the backside.

"He's all over the place, and you have to identify where he's at and try not to let him affect the game, because he does such a good job of disrupting it."