Pittsburgh defensive end Cameron Heyward, left, and strong safety Troy Polamalu sack Browns backup quarterback Brandon Weeden during the second half on Sunday. / Jason Miller/Getty Images
CLEVELAND –— Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu returned to his old form Sunday.
He forced a career-high two fumbles, recovered one and was credited with a sack as the Steelers dominated the Browns, 27-11, at frigid FirstEnergy Field.
Polamalu’s teammates spoke glowingly about his performance, which was reminiscent of his play in the seven seasons he was a Pro Bowl selection, as well as in 2010, when he captured the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
“He’s a monster out there,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “When he’s on, he’s on.”
“Troy’s such a dynamic player,” outside linebacker Jason Worilds said. “He’s just a guy who can make plays from anywhere. When we need a play, we can count on him to be there.”
Polamalu has started all 11 games for the Steelers this season and remained injury-free after missing nine games a year ago with a lingering right calf injury.
Late in the second quarter against the Browns, he hit fullback Chris Ogbonnaya after an 8-yard gain. He fumbled and Polamalu recovered at the Steelers’ 46-yard line.
It helped set up Shaun Suisham’s 32-yard field goal, giving the Steelers a 13-3 halftime lead.
Polamalu forced his second fumble in the fourth quarter. He sacked Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden for a 2-yard loss. Weeden fumbled and Heyward recovered and returned the ball eight yards to the Cleveland 44.
The Steelers, however, failed to capitalize on the turnover, one of a season-high four forced by the defense.
“We’re playing winning football and I’m just a part of it,” Polamalu said. “I think when we play good team defense, our offense puts points on the board, and we are stopping the run with our seven-man boxes, it gives us an opportunity to play at our best.”
Polamalu has three forced fumbles this season and 10 in his career. He also has six career fumble recoveries.
“Just his presence on the field is enough for coordinator’s to game-plan against him,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “It’s special watching him. I mean, we’re talking about a future Hall of Famer that I can say I played with.
“Once Troy gets to being Troy and doing Troy-like things, it’s a good thing for our defense and for the team.”
The Steelers’ defense registered five sacks and nine quarterback pressures, including six by Worilds. The unit also forced and recovered three fumbles and cornerback William Gay returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
But Polamalu wasn’t happy that Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon caught a franchise-record 14 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown, just a week after the Lions’ Calvin Johnson torched the Steelers for six catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was definitely nice getting turnovers, but we gave up a lot of big plays on the back end,” Polamalu said. “If we want to compete with the elite teams in this league, we can’t do that.”
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