By Neal Coolong
August 24, 2014
Polamalu is a fiery, emotional player, contrary to popular belief. It appeared he was fed up in the third quarter of the team's recent loss to Philadelphia. That should serve as a wake-up call to players as well as coaches.
Don't let the sign of the cross Steelers safety Troy Polamalu makes before and after - maybe even during - each play throw you. He plays with a reckless, passionate style that sometimes pushes him over the brink of acceptable behavior.
As he told Tribune Review reporter Alan Robinson in Sunday's edition, "I don't think at all, to be honest with you. Probably over the last (12 years), I lead the team in personal fouls."
Without the capability of confirming that estimate, we'd tend to agree. It's obviously slanted, considering only Brett Keisel has been with the Steelers longer, but his point remains valid; Troy gets a lot of personal fouls. He seems particularly amped up this preseason as well.
In the first series against Buffalo, Polamalu's first action of the preseason, he got into a scuffle with aBills offensive lineman. He jumped on Fred Jackson's head and ripped him to the ground on a carry a series later. And of course, the now infamous meltdown on a lax Steelers defensive unit during a blowout loss to Philadelphia.
It's not suggesting Polamalu feels he's above his teammates. Leaders have to resort to such attention-getting blow-ups from time to time. Polamalu played well in the game; certainly better than his teammates did, especially those in the secondary. But the Steelers' defense had their hindparts beaten, wrapped in plastic and mailed back to Pittsburgh in advance of the rest of their bodies.
Polamalu had enough. He felt the need to remind them of what this franchise's defense should represent, and of the simple fact it hasn't been living up to that in a while now. Maybe the build-up has been underway for a while.
The ability level of offensive players and schemes over the last four years has grown tremendously and the Steelers' defense hasn't caught up to that. Whether the widening gap between opposing offenses and the Steelers' defense is attributable toward scheme or personnel or both, the general lack of pressure, the shockingly high amount of penalties and inability to stop the run has been apparent. And it should be considered a concern.
Thursday's tilt against the Panthers isn't likely to see leaps and bounds improvements from a starting group that won't likely see more than a series of play. The hope here is Polamalu's tirade woke up not just the players but the coaches as well. A defense that hasn't provided a sustainable answer to spread offenses, and a nickel package of personnel that hasn't improved despite several modifications and tweaks, need the work, and it needs to wake up.
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