View Full Version : Pro Bowler Polamalu opens up for Steelers

10-13-2009, 01:29 AM
Pro Bowler Polamalu opens up for Steelers

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 47690.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_647690.html)

Troy Polamalu has played less than two quarters this season, but the abbreviated action hasn't stopped the Steelers' strong safety from compiling his own must-see TV moments for the 2009 season.

His highlights include the leaping, one-handed interception Polamalu made of a Kerry Collins pass in the Sept. 10 season opener. There also is the indelible image of Polamalu angling in on Chris Johnson, one of the fastest players in the NFL, and upending the Tennessee Titans running back behind the line of scrimmage.

Such plays are representative of the ones Polamalu has made since he cracked the Steelers' starting lineup in 2004. And the football field isn't the only place where Polamalu regularly produces "Gotcha!" moments.

As demure and even shy as Polamalu can come across, he apparently is one of the biggest jokesters among a group of players that are not averse to having fun at one another's expense. To hear his teammates talk, Polamalu, who could return from a sprained left knee Sunday when the Steelers host the Browns, can be as much of a quiet assassin off the field as he is on it.

"You've got to keep your head on a swivel because he's always playing jokes," nose tackle Casey Hampton said.

"People that really don't know Troy see the quiet demeanor on TV," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "He's definitely one of the main pranksters on our team."

Ward can speak from experience.

During an exhibition game this season, Polamalu offered Ward a water bottle while the two were on the sideline together.

Unbeknownst to Ward, Polamalu had unscrewed the lid to the bottle before making the gesture one would expect from a teammate of seven seasons. And when Ward tilted the bottle to squirt water into his mouth, he ended up with more than just sweat and grass stains on his jersey.

"You wouldn't really think Troy would do any kind of wise-guy stuff," Ward said with a laugh. "He's just a comedian, that's what you love about him."

His teammates love the five-time Pro Bowler for the difference that he makes on the field off it too.

Polamalu, who has his own foundation, is heavily involved in charity work.

It ranges from visiting sick children to helping veterans with anything from making a mortgage payment to care that is needed from the time they served in the military.

Polamalu also can be just as generous with his teammates.

One time, free safety Ryan Clark complimented Polamalu on a shirt he was wearing. Polamalu later tried to give the shirt to Clark.

"That's why I don't tell him I like anything anymore," Clark said of his closest friend on the Steelers. "He's just a very humble man."

That humility explains why the 5-foot-10, 207-pounder is loathe to talk about himself and why he is polite but seemingly uncomfortable when surrounded by a pack of reporters.

That is not to say Polamalu maintains a low profile, especially when he is healthy.

The Head & Shoulders commercials he stars in currently fill the TV airwaves. Meanwhile, the otherworldly plays he makes are shown on the seemingly endless loop that is ESPN's "SportsCenter."

The side of Polamalu that is rarely captured is the one where he lets his guard down to approximately the same level of his hair. Such as when he hopped onto the lap of Hampton during the Steelers' final preseason game in Carolina and told him to smile for a group of photographers that were standing nearby.

Or when the Steelers were stretching before a practice in which noise would be piped in to simulate opposing fans at an upcoming road game. As the Steelers warmed up, Polamalu popped a CD into the sound system and pretended to deejay, much to the delight of his teammates.

Ask Polamalu about such antics and he is his typical coy self.

"I'm not the prankster," he said. "Somebody's passing dirty rumors around."

There is too much evidence to the contrary.

Yet, the Polamalu Steelers fans really want to see is the one with which they are most familiar: the player who flies all over the field as if the hair that flows out of the back of his helmet is on fire.

Polamalu practiced on a limited basis last week, and signs point to him returning for Sunday's 1 p.m. game at Heinz Field.

Asked whether the Steelers had weathered Polamalu's absence by going 2-2 without him, Clark said, "Without question. You put teams together for a reason, that's why it's not a one-man sport. Each piece fits a certain way."

Polamalu, who had a career-high seven interceptions in 2008, is a unique fit on any defense.

His speed and instincts allows defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to line him up all over the field. He is just as comfortable and confounding to opposing quarterbacks blitzing as he is backpedaling into coverage.

And, as the Steelers can attest, Polamalu doesn't limit his deception to the football field.

"He's always playing jokes, always doing something to keep us alive," Steelers defensive back Deshea Townsend said. "We have a good group of guys and he fits in well with us."