The Pittsburgh Steelers were unsure if the heart of their defense would be able to play against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Wild Card playoff matchup. The good news for them is veteran safety Troy Polamalu will be in the starting lineup when the division rivals take the field Saturday night.
The 33-year-old missed the last two games of the regular season with a knee injury. Even though the Steelers were victorious in both contests, there is no denying that Polamalu gives them a huge advantage on defense when he is in the lineup. However, there was no guarantee he would even be able to play in the first round of the playoffs.
“I needed to see him prepare,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told the team website. “Sometimes a guy is able to play at the 11th hour and they don’t get the in-helmet preparation over the course of the work week. When you get to January football and the stakes are high, detail is going to define you. Not only him but us, and you need that in-helmet preparation to do it. He was able to practice this week, and so that made the decision easier.”
Polamalu’s numbers are way down from past seasons, but he has historically been a difference maker in the postseason. The way he can read quarterbacks, stay with wide receivers and lay down big hits makes him one of the most feared safeties in the league, even if he has lost a step over the years.
In fact, it is Polamalu not playing up to his typical stellar self that could give him advantage against the Ravens, especially if they believe they can beat him on certain routes. Of course, that will only happen if he is up to the challenge of overcoming Pittsburgh’s talented receivers.
When it comes down to it, the Steelers are far better off with Polamalu in the lineup then on the bench. For that reason, the entire team has to be ecstatic he will join them in an incredibly important playoff game.