Field General: In Troy We Trust

By MikeBullock  |   Tuesday, February 01, 2011  |  Comments( 1 )

Pittsburgh Steelers
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One great adage of coaching is “it’s our job to do what we do best and their job to try and stop us.” Seldom is there a player in the NFL who truly embodies both of those sentiments, a player who, by doing what he does best, stops the other team from doing what they do best, time and time again. Each year the AP names a Defensive Player of the Year even in the years when such a player doesn’t seem to exist. While quite often this player is a great one, occasionally, you have one who is blazing a trail through offenses like a cruise missile aimed at the Hall of Fame.

Last night, Troy Polamalu was named the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year and quite frankly, I’m a little surprised he hasn’t landed this honor more times than the Steelers have grabbed Superbowl glory. Aside from Ray Lewis, it’s hard to find a defender who has meant so much to a team for such a long period of time.

Born in 1981 in Garden Grove, California, a southern suburb of LA, Polamalu went to High School in Douglas, Oregon before returning to his So Cal roots at USC where he nabbed All-American honors twice. Picked in the first round of the 2003 draft, Polamalu has paid big dividends to the Steelers over the course of his career. During the next eight seasons, Polamalu amassed 393 tackles, 122 assists, eight sacks, 71 passes defensed, 27 interceptions and two touchdowns.

One thing those stats don’t show is how Polamalu always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Quarterbacks are often rated on an intangible X-factor, a combination of wit, wisdom, luck, football smarts and sheer force of will that helps them make the impossible seem possible. Well, anyone who has seen Polamalu fly over top of an offensive line (as if he had a giant “S” on his chest and flowing red cape), to make a drive killing tackle in an opponent’s backfield knows he has that same variable.

While injuries may have slowed Polamalu this season, the physical anchors have done nothing but sharpen him mentally. Pittsburgh Defensive Coordinator and arguably the greatest defensive mind in the modern era, Dick LeBeau, dubbed Polamalu the greatest defensive back he’s ever seen. Ever. For a man who has been around defensive backs since his collegiate career that culminated in the NCAA championship in 1957, that’s saying a lot.

For Steeler fans out there, imagine if Polamalu and Rod Woodson could have played together in their prime. For Packer’s fans, pray he suddenly decides to retire between now and this Sunday.

Another old football adage is that great players perform in big games. When all is said and done, there may not be a safety who deserves the term “great player” more than Polamalu and there’ll never come a day when the NFL has a game bigger than the Super Bowl. Expect Polamalu to bring his x-factor to the field in Dallas this weekend.

While he may not walk out of the building with Superbowl MVP honors, if you watch closely, you’ll certainly see how his presence alone alters the way the Green Bay Packers play. And maybe that’s all the Steelers need to secure lucky number seven.

One thing is for sure, this looks to be one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played. How appropriate that one of the greatest safeties will have such a key impact. This is the stuff of which NFL legends are made. Strap yourselves in and get ready for takeoff.
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