Troy Polamalu enters training camp as Steelers' longest tenured player
Polamalu enters training camp as Steelers' longest tenured player
By Alan Robinson
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
NFL training camps are something to be tolerated and not necessarily enjoyed by veteran players. Troy Polamalu is no exception.
What is different as Polamalu heads off to his 12th Steelers training camp Friday is that, for the first time, he is their most-tenured player.
But for how much longer?
“It's strange to be the oldest and most-experienced guy on the squad,” Polamalu said. “I never thought that would happen — Jerome Bettis was here, it seems, like yesterday. I looked at him as one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game, and he's old.
“I hoped one day I could get old and play, and here I am. I guess I am old, too.”
Advancing age — Polamalu turned 33 in April — always brings about questions regarding how much longer a career will last.
Team president Art Rooney II said the Steelers want Polamalu to retire without playing for another team, and they attempted to facilitate that by adding two years onto a contract due to expire after this season.
The deal trimmed Polamalu's base salary from a scheduled $8.25 million in 2014 to $1.5 million, with the $6.75 million difference converted into a signing bonus that will be spread over the three years.
However, no money is guaranteed after this season, and the Steelers could cut ties to Polamalu by absorbing a $4.5 million dead money charge after this season or a $2.25 million charge after 2015.
For the moment, there is no sign that the Steelers are weighing this. Polamalu made his eighth Pro Bowl last season and was the highest-rated player on their defense and No. 5 overall in the league by Pro Football Focus. He did so while often playing out of position at inside linebacker due to Larry Foote's season-ending injury in Week 1.
But while Polamalu played all 1,093 defensive snaps last season, he missed big chunks of the 2009 and 2012 seasons with injuries.
And for the first time since the Steelers traded up in the first round to draft him in 2003, he has an heir apparent: Shamarko Thomas.
How well Polamalu plays, how much he plays and how quickly Thomas progresses — for now he's backing up free safety Mike Mitchell — could determine whether Polamalu returns next year at age 34.
“I want to play this game as long and as good as I can play it,” Polamalu said late last season. “Whenever (retirement) time comes, it will come. I'm not sure when it will come, though.”
Polamalu also said he might retire rather than play for another team, saying, “I couldn't see that (playing elsewhere) happening.”
What complicates matters is the Steelers traded a third-round draft pick last year to move up in the fourth round and choose Thomas. If Polamalu returns in 2015 and Thomas still isn't starting, the Steelers would control Thomas for only one more season, in 2016, before he becomes a free agent.
Polamalu's base salary ($6 million) and salary cap hit ($8.25 million) also would be much higher in 2015. His cap hit this season is $6,387,500.
The upside for Polamalu is the addition of linebackers Ryan Shazier and Arthur Moats and free safety Mitchell means he shouldn't have to shift inside nearly as much.
Still, the Steelers are undergoing a makeover on defense — only Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Lawrence Timmons remain as starters from 2012 — after slipping to No. 13 overall in 2013. They were No. 1 the previous two seasons.
That decline is evidenced by their falloff in two key statistics: Their 40 takeaways the last two seasons were the NFL's third fewest, and their 71 sacks ranked only 23rd.
The Steelers badly need the playmaking Polamalu of old to help change that.
“We just have to play more solid and take advantage of the opportunities we are given, as far as turnovers, sacks and being more sound in our assignments,” Polamalu said.
The All–Bad Contracts Team
Let’s break down the worst deals in the NFL and the five different ways to overpay someone
BY BILL BARNWELL ON JULY 24
Safety: Troy Polamalu, Steelers
Contract Flaw: Ever Fallen in Love With a Player You Shouldn’t Have?
Nobody doubts Polamalu’s legacy as an all-time great Steelers defender and a likely future Hall of Famer, but the former USC star simply isn’t the player he once was, as he lacks the range to play the rover role he perfected under Dick LeBeau and is often reduced to relying on his instincts and film study to guess how a play will turn out, with little chance of recovering if his guesses are wrong. A capped-out Steelers team probably shouldn’t have given Polamalu an extension in 2011, but they did themselves no favors by restructuring the 33-year-old’s deal this offseason to pay him $22.6 million through 2016.
Of course, it’s impossible to avoid bad contracts. Every team in football has a bad deal or two on its books, and that’s not going to change. Variance is too powerful. By being forward-thinking and avoiding high-risk deals like the ones I’ve mentioned here, though, teams can reduce their exposure to contracts that are likely to blow up in their faces while saving money for the players they need to lock up.
Troy Polamalu back at natural position for Steelers
By Kevin Patra
Around the League writer
Published: Aug. 19, 2014
Perhaps no one will benefit more from rookie Ryan Shazier's play in the middle of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense than Troy Polamalu.
The 33-year-old spent last season dropping down to fill in at linebacker because the group lacked anyone who could cover in space.
Shazier and Polamalu both played their first game of the preseason on Saturday, and the rookie showed exactly why the veteran shouldn't have to worry about filling that role in 2014.
Polamalu said he'd play anywhere asked, but getting back to his natural strong safety position should be a boon for him and the Steelers.
"It depends, you know, because my role has changed so much through the years," he said. "So, it really all depends on how coach LeBeau wants to use me.
Entering his 12th season, the veteran has proven over the course of his career that when he is allowed free reign to make plays, he can be a disruptive weapon. However, he didn't start his career with as big a bang as Shazier.
"To make that kind of impact in one game, in a preseason game, has to be a confidence booster,'' Polamalu said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I did not do anything like that my whole rookie year. I'm sure that is going to really give him a lot of confidence, and, hopefully, he can carry that into the next game and the season."
If the rookie can continue to play like he did in his first game it will free Polamalu to be the wild, free-ranging playmaker that has made him one of the best and most entertaining playmakers of the last decade.
“It's strange to be the oldest and most-experienced guy on the squad,” Polamalu said.
Well... that didn't last long...
simply isn’t the player he once was, as he lacks the range??? Looks like the knee jerk writers response when the guy likely hasn't watched polamalu play since 2008.
Originally Posted by hawaiiansteel
I saw the old troy in the preseason game against the Bills. This guy needs to watch the players actually play. And also avoid the automatic anti-Steelers bias. Troy is like still a top 2 or 3 SS in the league. Can't be THAT bad of a contract. LOL
August 22, 2014
Friday Insider: What had Troy so hot?
Apparently, TV only caught a moment of Troy Polamalu getting heated on the Steelers’ sideline Thursday night in the loss to the Eagles, but I’ve since heard from witness that it was really, really passionate at one point.
Below is a shot taken by DKonPittsburghSports.com subscriber Greg Conn from his seats at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s after the fact, but you can see the defense off to the left and Polamalu kind of being held off at the right
No need to guess how displeased what displeased Polamalu from listening to him afterward when he was asked about the Steelers’ readiness with just one preseason game left: “We’ll see. I’m not going to predict the future, whether we’re ready or not. If you look at today’s performance, you could see we definitely aren’t. If you look at last game’s performance you could see maybe we have a shot. … Obviously, we’ve got a lot of film to watch and a lot of mistakes to correct.”
Couple this with Polamalu’s open criticism of the defense’s lack of discipline, and this would appear to be accumulating.
• And then there’s Cam Heyward, who not only held court at his stall as long as anyone, not only seethed to the point of using some unprintable language, but also — and remarkably — tried to make the Browns sound scary: “We’ve got to know when Cleveland comes they’re going to bring the full shed on us. They’re not going to mess around. … If we don’t step it up, Cleveland is going to come into our house and beat us.”
Steelers Troy Polamalu is mad and he should be
By Neal Coolong on Aug 24 2014
Polamalu is a fiery, emotional player, contrary to popular belief. It appeared he was fed up in the third quarter of the team's recent loss to Philadelphia. That should serve as a wake-up call to players as well as coaches.
Don't let the sign of the cross Steelers safety Troy Polamalu makes before and after - maybe even during - each play throw you. He plays with a reckless, passionate style that sometimes pushes him over the brink of acceptable behavior.
As he told Tribune Review reporter Alan Robinson in Sunday's edition, "I don't think at all, to be honest with you. Probably over the last (12 years), I lead the team in personal fouls."
Without the capability of confirming that estimate, we'd tend to agree. It's obviously slanted, considering only Brett Keisel has been with the Steelers longer, but his point remains valid; Troy gets a lot of personal fouls. He seems particularly amped up this preseason as well.
In the first series against Buffalo, Polamalu's first action of the preseason, he got into a scuffle with a Bills offensive lineman. He jumped on Fred Jackson's head and ripped him to the ground on a carry a series later. And of course, the now infamous meltdown on a lax Steelers defensive unit during a blowout loss to Philadelphia.
It's not suggesting Polamalu feels he's above his teammates. Leaders have to resort to such attention-getting blow-ups from time to time. Polamalu played well in the game; certainly better than his teammates did, especially those in the secondary. But the Steelers' defense had their hindparts beaten, wrapped in plastic and mailed back to Pittsburgh in advance of the rest of their bodies.
Polamalu had enough. He felt the need to remind them of what this franchise's defense should represent, and of the simple fact it hasn't been living up to that in a while now. Maybe the build-up has been underway for a while.
The ability level of offensive players and schemes over the last four years has grown tremendously and the Steelers' defense hasn't caught up to that. Whether the widening gap between opposing offenses and the Steelers' defense is attributable toward scheme or personnel or both, the general lack of pressure, the shockingly high amount of penalties and inability to stop the run has been apparent. And it should be considered a concern.
Thursday's tilt against the Panthers isn't likely to see leaps and bounds improvements from a starting group that won't likely see more than a series of play. The hope here is Polamalu's tirade woke up not just the players but the coaches as well. A defense that hasn't provided a sustainable answer to spread offenses, and a nickel package of personnel that hasn't improved despite several modifications and tweaks, need the work, and it needs to wake up.