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fordfixer
01-31-2009, 03:09 AM
All eyes on Steelers' Troy Polamalu in Super Bowl
Safety has license to make 'guesses' and almost always gets them right

Dan Pompei | On the NFL
January 31, 2009

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/fo ... 884.column (http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/chi-31-pompei-super-bowljan31,0,7681884.column)

TAMPA —You can debate whether Troy Polamalu is the best player in the Super Bowl, but there's no denying the Steelers' safety is the most intriguing.

No one else draws eyes quite like Polamalu, given the way he flies around fearlessly, the way he blows up ballcarriers, the way he plays the ball in the air, the way he makes plays at all levels of the field …

Even the way he wears his hair.

Many of those who attend Super Bowl XLIII will follow his every step—including Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. More than anyone, he wants to know where Polamalu is at all times.

Mostly he will be "in the box," near the line of scrimmage. Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton said Polamalu was assigned to play where the big boys make their living about 60 percent of the time this year, more on first and second downs. You won't find him blitzing much, if at all. Horton said he believes Polamalu hasn't blitzed once all season.

"With increased playing time, [linebacker] Lawrence Timmons is blitzing more," Horton said. "Plus LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, they're sack masters. So we don't need to bring him as much. We can drop him in coverage and have him complement our pressure and intercept the ball on the back end."

That explains how Polamalu has eight interceptions and no sacks this year.

In the past, the Steelers used Polamalu much more as a blitzer.

"My role has changed more or less because of Lawrence Timmons," Polamalu said. "He comes in and provides mismatches with running backs when he blitzes. That has made our defense more dynamic."

Most of Polamalu's interceptions come in zone defenses. Some have come from Polamalu taking "educated guesses." Polamalu is given the freedom to do something outside the defensive call if he suspects the offense is about to exploit the Steelers.

"He doesn't just do what he wants to do," Horton said. "He takes calculated risks on what he sees pre-snap from watching film. If he thinks there is a 75 percent chance he's going to get a certain play, he goes with it."

In the course of a game, Polamalu may deviate from the called defense about a dozen times. Horton says Polamalu has not been burned on a big play by abandoning his assignment all season.

"In the five years I've been here, he probably has done it 150 times and been right 135 times," Horton said.

In the first quarter of the AFC championship game, the Ravens went for it on fourth-and-1. Polamalu abandoned his assignment, jumped over Ravens center Jason Brown and stopped Joe Flacco's quarterback sneak for no gain.

He later explained he strongly suspected it was a run because the Ravens brought in Adam Terry as a tackle eligible on the play. From film study, Polamalu knew the Ravens had run all but once when Terry was in a game as a tackle eligible.

"You learn to appreciate guys with the playing qualities he has, because quite simply he does what you don't teach," coach Mike Tomlin said. "You can't teach people to play the game the way he plays the game. His intuition, his physical gifts, his perception of the game is unique."

steelnavy
02-01-2009, 07:19 AM
"My role has changed more or less because of Lawrence Timmons," Polamalu said. "He comes in and provides mismatches with running backs when he blitzes. That has made our defense more dynamic."


Based on Troy's assessment, maybe the '07 draft was one of the best Steeler decision/gambles ever? Timmons plus Woodley changed the dynamic for the entire defense, allowing other teammates to focus elsewhere on the field.