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NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers: Troy Polamalu Returning to Form in 2013

Troy Polamalu

Jason Bridge – US Presswire

Last season was a nightmare for Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

An early season calf injury cost him nine of the first 11 games of the season, and even when he was able to return for the final six games, it was simply a case of too little, too late. It never looked like he was completely healthy, and with the season in shambles, there was nothing he could do that would salvage it.

ut as OTA’s have begun for the NFL, the good news coming out of the Steelers camp is that Polamalu is healthy and looks to be in tremendous condition for the upcoming season.

While the quarterback position is clearly the most important on any team, Polamalu has a similar impact for the Steelers on defense. His ability to impact not only the game plan of his opponents, but the game plan of his own team is unparalleled in recent history.

The latter is really where it becomes obvious. I concede that teams must account for Polamalu on the field on every play, and his skill set lends itself to swing-type plays that can turn the tide for the Steelers; but even removing all those, Polamalu has an “ability”, if you want to call it that, which is even more important.

It has become obvious in recent seasons. When Polamalu isn’t on the field, the entire Steelers defense plays tight. Play-calling becomes conservative, and the players become hesitant, so aware of that No. 43 isn’t behind them, ready to fly in like a heat-seeking missile to finish the play.

This is something I have preached about for years, and it never fails to show itself to be true. This defense just isn’t the same when Polamalu isn’t on the field and no matter how many games he misses, the Steelers players and staff have come up with no answer for it.

Having said that, it’s very exciting news that Polamalu is healthy. Obviously when you consider his injury history, this must all be taken with a grain of salt in May, but just the idea that the Steelers could have Polamalu at full strength for 14-16 games this year gets me excited for the season.

This is a defense with a lot of young parts, so having Polamalu on the back end would be a huge component toward the team’s success in 2013.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft, and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.