Today will bring about a long series of player breakdowns from the 2010 season. Our first breakdown and review focuses on Troy Polamalu. Why not start with Big Ben? Well, in my opinion, Troy is the most important player on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers proved that they could win without Roethlisberger going 3-1 while the quarterback fulfilled his suspension. They came very close to going 4-0, had they won against rival Baltimore (which they almost did).
The past two seasons, Polamalu experienced injuries that had him sidelined for 2 games or more. The Steelers record without Polamalu in the lineup was a mere 6-7. Polamalu on the field resulted in a record of 16-4. Pretty staggering numbers if you ask me. One other stat to consider when looking at Polamalu’s presence in the lineup is that the Steelers give up 21.5 points/game without him vs. 14.5 points/game with him. With a trend developing of the Steelers coming from behind to win in the 4th quarter, a touchdown difference is huge. So, with that aside, let’s look at some more numbers.
Stats stats stats
Polamalu finished the season with 63 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 7 interceptions. The 63 tackles is his fourth lowest output in 8 seasons. He averaged 4.5 tackles a game. However, his 7 interceptions were tied for second in the league as well as tied for his highest career amount (7 int. in 2008). Out of 11 passes he defended (as defined by the NFL, a defended pass is a play in which the player comes in contact with the football and causes it to be incomplete) he intercepted that pass 7 times. Good things happen when #43 gets his hands on the ball. Polamalu’s defensive play heated up towards the end of the season producing more tackles and interceptions. However, for reasons unknown, he became ineffective during the post season, racking up just 10 tackles in 3 games and no forced turnovers. Most think his injury was still bothering him, but Polamalu recently deflected that criticism by stating that he was healthy during the playoffs and Super Bowl.
Polamalu is a beast on the field (once nicknamed Tazmanian Devil). His play making abilities wreaks havoc for offensive coordinators. He can stuff the run, pass blitz the quarterback from anywhere off the line, defend passes with speed and play with a physical intensity that gets inside receivers’ heads. Troy’s biggest play by far this past season was his sack forced fumble on Joe Flacco on December 5th against the Ratbirds. That turnover led to the Steelers scoring the winning touchdown and eventually led to them winning the division by owning the tiebreaker.
Despite missing two games in 2010, Polamalu was awarded the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. He finished ahead of Green Bay’s Clay Mathews and teammate James Harrison (2nd and 3rd place respectively). I would attribute his surge at the end of the season, interception total and his ‘you must coach your offense around me’ ability as the reasons for this well warranted award. People here in Wisconsin are fit to be tied. But hey, at least Clay won best hair between the two. That’s must count for something… right? Although, I’m sure if you asked Polamalu who fared better, he would tell you the guy who won the Super Bowl.
Troy turns 30 in just a couple of weeks and will be entering his 9th season in the league and as a Steeler. And it doesn’t seem like he will be slowing down any time soon. For a guy who plays like a madman on the field and seemingly hits like a mac truck game in and game he plays with the intensity of a 2nd or 3rd year starter. The 2011 season is the last year in his current contract. In numerous interviews, Polamalu has given nothing but respect for the ownership and coaches on this team. I don’t foresee him wanting to leave the organization anytime soon. And I don’t foresee the Steelers hesitating on resigning him during the course of this season… if there is a season. That brings up an interesting scenario. If the lockout were to continue through the entire 2011 season, then the Steelers would not be able to negotiate a new contract with Polamalu or any of the players in their final contractual year – and it’s unclear (although I’m sure someone out there knows) if contracts are ‘frozen’ at this time or if they indeed expire in 2012. It’s difficult to surmise if the Steelers would lose out on resigning Troy based on this scenario. I do feel that the Nation can have a decent amount of confidence that the front office will do what it takes to keep #43 for at least another four years.