By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Troy Polamalu has been viewed by some as being injury-prone, but until this season the Pittsburgh Steelers’ strong safety played in 123 of 144 possible games with 2009 the only year when he missed double-digit games.
Polamalu played in all 16 games this past season and missed just two in 2010, but was limited to just 29 snaps in two games among the opening 11 this season. In his return last week at Baltimore, Polamalu played 49 of the 63 total plays for the Steelers defense (77.7 percent).
“I feel good, and God willing I’ll be able to play again this week,” Polamalu said Thursday before practice. “I don’t know if I was on any (snap) count last week. I just think it was a better game plan going into the last game than it was going into Philly. And I was very happy to come out of it with a victory.
“It was better because I was limited, in a way, as far as my repetitions went and the game plan, as far as practice was concerned. (But) I don’t know if we could have changed what happened in the Philly game. I don’t like to deal in hypotheticals. I felt good enough to play, so I played.”
Polamalu was asked if his strained right calf worsened after playing against the Eagles, since he didn’t make it through the first quarter. Polamalu answered negatively and added that a different muscle was injured in that game. He would not elaborate, saying that he already provided too much information.
“You could see that Troy was eased back into it last week,” Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said. “He didn’t do as much Troy stuff. You know, like jumping over the line, running from sideline to sideline and crashing into the backfield.”
Polamalu wasn’t aware that those types of plays were termed “Troy stuff.”
“If that stuff comes, it comes,” Polamalu said.
Polamalu appeared to be somewhat more reflective than he’s been in recent years, and some believed that this would be his last NFL season. Others say that he likely won’t want to go out after missing so many games.
“I wouldn’t say it was a new perspective, but (missing all those games) kind of re-enforced the feeling that maybe I didn’t appreciate it as much as I used to,” Polamalu said. “(But) my feeling are always the same. When you live day to day, you can’t talk years. You can’t talk weeks. You can’t talk months.
“Anybody that knows me. They can say: ‘Troy, can you be here next week?’ And I tell them: ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen next week. You’ve got to ask me then.’ So, I just try to deal with the present.”
Polamalu added that he wasn’t concerned about his future, per se, at least not past this week’s game. And it’s one that will happen without cornerback Ike Taylor (right ankle fracture) for the first time since 2004. Second-year players Cortez Allen (starter) and Curtis Brown (passing downs) will be key substitutes in the Steelers’ secondary.
“The DBs and the coaches obviously know what they’re capable of, so Cortez and Curtis did what we expected them to do,” Polamalu said. “Obviously, replacing a guy like Ike isn’t easy. I don’t think the guy’s ever missed a game here, so it’s going to be different for our defense the next couple games.”
Even though Taylor said publicly on his radio show that he’ll be back sooner, rather than later, the Steelers need to make a run toward the playoffs beginning now. They need to win the remaining four regular-season games to get on a roll heading into the post-season.
“They’re obviously very important, but they’re no more meaningful than the games we played in September,” Polamalu said. “If we would have handled them then, then maybe the perception of our backs against the wall wouldn’t be as such. (But) the defense gave our team a chance to win games. We haven’t been forcing turnovers like we had hoped, but we’re doing all the other stuff.”
And that has to continue for the Steelers to make a run in the playoffs.