Hall of Famer
Why 2013 Will Be the Defining Year for Pittsburgh Steelers’ Troy Polamalu
COMMENTARY | In the pantheon of Pittsburgh Steelers players, there are arguments to be made at every position as to who is the best of all time. Terry Bradshaw or Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback? Lynn Swann, John Stallworth or Hines Ward at wide receiver? Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Greg Lloyd, among others, at linebacker? Yet, with apologies to the fantastic Donnie Shell, Troy Polamalu stands alone atop the list of great safeties to play in the Steel City.
Polamalu is considered by most to be a sure-fire Hall of Famer, a feat that Shell was not able to accomplish (though to be fair, Shell is certainly deserving of the honor but has apparently been the victim of voter bias, as many at that time felt that there was a glut of '70s Steelers already enshrined and that some kind of unspoken cap limit had been reached). While I agree that Polamalu is a transcendental talent and should one day find himself with a bronze bust in Canton, I feel that the 2013 season is a pivotal year for the seven time pro bowler in cementing his legacy.
Prove Last Season Was A Fluke
2012 was an extremely disappointing season, for the team in general and for Polamalu specifically. The former USC Trojan was limited to just seven games due to a calf injury, and his absence in the secondary could, in part, have contributed to the club's 8-8 finish with no playoff appearance. Pittsburgh doubters have been creeping out of the woodwork all offseason, and comments abound that the team's run of dominant play is over and that their 'fear factor" is gone.
So it is imperative that, quite frankly, Polamalu shut them up and prove once again that opposing offenses need to fear him. He needs to show that the calf injury is fully healed and will not impede his play going forward. In OTAs last week, he said that the injury is behind him and that he has learned that the problem was the result of scar tissue in the calf, and that this has been treated and resolved. A healthy and dominant Polamalu, playing a full season at top form, could be the difference between an 8-8 team and an 11-5 team. This is absolutely possible, either by preventing points or producing a defensive score, especially when considering that the Steelers lost five games by just three points last season.
Mentor his Eventual Replacement
Playing in all 16 games will also go a long way in setting an example for fourth round draft pick Shamarko Thomas, the safety out of Syracuse. This is the first real opportunity for Polamalu to mentor and groom a young player at the position and there is no better way to do so than by example. Standing on the sidelines and offering encouragement is one thing, but for Thomas to be able to see it first hand is something else entirely. Thomas should also be able to get into games in sub-packages, so sharing the field with one of the greats will be a major asset for him. In this capacity, nurturing his eventual replacement will be one more way in which Polamalu's legacy will endure long after his eventual retirement.
Validate His Roster Spot
As for legacies, linebacker James Harrison's is over for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as he will now be suiting up for the rival Cincinnati Bengals. While I am by no means saying that the team's front office was deciding between keeping either Harrison or Polamalu, the similarities between both players this offseason was strikingly similar. Both are aging veterans who have been dealing with injury shortened seasons. Both are former defensive MVPs with little depth behind them. Both were on the books to make over $6 million in salary for the 2013 season.
Early in the offseason, there was talk that either one could be released. It turned out to be Harrison, but in truth, it wouldn't have been a complete shock if it had been Polamalu. So again, I'm not saying that it was going to be one or the other, but by keeping Polamalu it puts additional pressure on him to come through with a big performance this year and prove that he was the player worth keeping over Harrison.
Legitimize His Stake as the Best of His Era
Finally, I feel like at least one more dominant season by Polamalu can help to end the years-long debate as to who was the best safety of this generation, him or Houston's Ed Reed. Maybe the fact that I just wrote Houston instead of Baltimore tips the scale in Polamalu's favor just a little, as I tend to respect players more if they remain with one team for their whole careers. I'm old-school like that, and it goes back to the way things were with all of Pittsburgh's Hall of Famers finishing out their careers with the team. (Yeah, I try hard to forget about Franco Harris in a Seahawks uniform.)
With Reed not participating in OTAs due to offseason hip surgery, one can wonder what kind of an impact he will have with his new team. If he struggles and has a subpar season, while Polamalu shines, then the pendulum can surely swing towards Pittsburgh's side once and for all. Polamalu has the edge in championship rings, and earning one more will most assuredly end the debate dramatically.
So while Polamalu's career has been nothing short of spectacular, here's hoping the safety can make 2013 his swan song. There is a lot riding on him this year, and this writer, for one, thinks it can be his best yet.
I believe Troy to be the best safety to ever play the game. I agree Troy needs a big year to solidify that in some people's minds.
I don't believe he's in the argument TBH (and I like Polamalu), but if he is... he will certainly have to rejuvenate his career here in the last few years (a la Rod Woodson). He's been way too unreliable over the last few years.
Originally Posted by Shawn
Troy will be DMVP this season on the way to #7.
The only part of the game the Steelers missed with Troy out was in generating turn-overs. The pass defense without him was solid after his second week gone when they learned how to play without him. I am actually more comfortable this season if Troy cant go for 16 games. He does have value in showing the young guys how to train, prepare, and play in an NFL game. Maybe the Steelers start to move him into PT duty at some point this season, reduce his contract, extend his career?
i agree that troy is the best defensive player ever to play the game....i also agree with the coment that he needs to have a huge season this year to make it count.
Ronnie Lott EASY. At this stage in his career it is impossible for Troy to take the crown.
Originally Posted by Shawn
Lott was a corner, strong safety and weak safety first team all-pro at all seondary positions.
Much better in coverage just as good a tackler, a harder hitter.
He was Troy and Reed rolled up into one package of destruction that hit harder than Clark.
We watch every minute of Troy's play but honestly how much have we seen of 80s Niner games (not just rerun highlights).
Dude had FIVE 100 tackle seasons
Career high 10 ints in 14 games (injury)
Came in as a rookie and Niners won the SB immediately. Montana and the offense got credit but the niners were 7 in offense but 2nd in defense.
Rookie Lott led that D and was the only allpro player on that number 2 ranked defense.
Let me give you an example of how constant reruns of Troy and lack of seeing what Lott "did" plays games with our memory.
We know Lotts reputation but forget or have seen little of what he did.
Troy makes amazing splash plays right?
See those int for touchdown by Troy over and over again; reality he had all of 2 in his career.
Lott had THREE ints returned for touchdowns AS A ROOKIE. Can you recall any?
Lott has 4 rings and NOBODY on his defense was close to him in value during his entire career.
In 20 playoff games he had 9 ints and one forced fumble.
In other words, he averaged about 1 turnover created every other playoff game.
I lived in Hawaii at the time, Niners on TV all the time there. I saw Lott a lot. Or is that a lot of Lott.
Coverage, tackles, instintiveness, smarts, wins, championships, value to his team...........
Troy is not as good as Ronnie Lot was, and there is absolutely no criterion on which you can make a case that Troy is better. None.
Well Troy does have an impressive mane and the the resulting endorsements but football........Lott wins
Last edited by Captain Lemming; 07-01-2013 at 03:39 PM.
I'm not buying. You can reasonably make the case that Lott is the better form tackler and bigger hitter, but there's a ton of plays Troy makes that Ronnie couldn't imagine making in his dreams.
Originally Posted by Captain Lemming
Troy covers more field than any player the NFL has ever seen. His game speed makes it look like Lott was playing in slow motion if you go back and watch his highlights. No way is Lott lining up 20-30 yards downfield and making ankle tackles in the backfield. Nor is he lining up in the box and then making plays on the ball in the deep middle.
Players have gotten a lot bigger and faster since Lott came into the NFL 30+ years ago. The rules have been slanted toward the offense and the passing game over the most recent years. Lott wouldn't be able to play like himself in today's game.
Despite the size and speed in the modern NFL, every game I've seen live in recent history, there's one guy that looks like he always moving 2x as fast as every other player on the field.
That is a "USE TO" statement. Troy has noticeable lost a step and doesn't cover the field like he use to. I don't see him getting that back.
Originally Posted by flippy
I haven't noticed it yet. He's been injured and he's getting older, but I don't think he's lost a step. I expect the regular old Troy this year.
Originally Posted by Oviedo