As kickoff approaches Pittsburgh Steelers fans are left wondering if their Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu is going to be on the field for them when they face off against the New York Jets. There’s a lot riding on this game, and a lot riding on Polamalu and the impact he has on the game. Polamalu is one of the best safetys in the NFL, and so losing him this week could be a really big deal.
For a team like the Steelers, Polamalu is the pivot guy in that back 7. Last week we saw what happens when you take out the signal caller for the defensive secondary, safety Ryan Clark, and how they impacted Polamalu, but this week with Clark back, Polamalu has a chance to be his old disruptive self.
In the run game, Polamalu plays in the box like an extra linebacker, and even on those plays were he doesn’t make the play you can be sure that he will take up at least one blocker and often times two. He often plows into the line, submarine the back, and either making the tackle or forcing them into other Steelers.
In coverage, Polamalu plays sort of center field reading the quarterback’s eyes and using his speed to get to the play. Not the strength of his game by any means, but compared to the alternative, he will be missed. Once again this is a situation where Polamalu tends to freelance for better or worse.
As a blitzer, well, this is a point of frustration for me. I’d love to see him get to the quarterback more, but even when he doesn’t, just having Polamalu hovering around the line of scrimmage gives the offense one more thing to think about, and can often throw off his timing.
But the real impact on the Steelers defense is in intensity. In past seasons, when Polamalu was out of the lineup the entire defense laid down. I understand that Polamalu is talented and he makes lots of plays, but for 10 other professional football players to not step up when one of their top players is beyond me. But for whatever reason, when Polamalu is off the field, the rest of the defense struggles to do their jobs. Against the Jets today today, whether Polamalu is there or not, this defense has to do everything it can to keep this team from going 0-2, because history tells us that if a team starts a season 0-2, the odds of making the playoffs diminish greatly.
What do you think? Can the Steelers defense survive if they don’t have Polamalu? Come find me on Twitter @nfldraftboard and let me know.