By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Troy Polamalu has always marched to a different drummer, but the Pittsburgh Steelers safety needed to think outside the box for his offseason training as he enters his 11th NFL season.
Polamalu was relatively healthy going into the offseason, despite missing nine-plus games in 2012, but while talking with the media Tuesday following the initial organized team activity (OTA) he revealed that the right calf injury that dogged him last season actually has been a hindrance for the past four years.
And that caused him to alter his offseason conditioning.
“There are a lot of different rehabs and training,” Polamalu said. “When you have an injury that’s bothered you for four years, there gets to be so much scar tissue. If you don’t attack the problem of scar tissue, then you are just going to continue to have problems.
“This year, I have been really focused on that, and I’ve found a great physical therapist, and I’ve continued to work out with my trainer. Everything has evolved there and has evolved nicely. (But) I feel OK, thank God. (And) the injuries are most definitely a thing of the past.”
This information was enlightening, because Polamalu played all 16 regular-season games in 2011 and earned first-team All-Pro honors for the fifth time. He played 14 games and was the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2010.
“Oh, yeah,” Polamalu said when asked if it really was an issue the past four seasons. “I haven’t worked on (the calf) consciously, before now, so we’ll see. Time will tell how things will evolve.”
Polamalu still works with West Coast-based personal trainer Marv Marinovich and appeared to be in terrific physical condition. This is not a departure for Polamalu, who has always been a hard worker, but just looked a lot better this year. Polamalu can’t compare to someone like veteran cornerback Ike Taylor, who is ripped and appeared to have no issues with the ankle that he broke near the end of last season.
“I’m ready to go,” Taylor said. “It’s a green light. Everything’s green over here, and I’m ready to go. … Troy, you really can’t tell with him. He wears his clothes all baggy, so you really never know. I’m just excited to see him.
“But I don’t know if he’s looking slimmer than he has the past couple of years. But Troy is Troy. You know what you’re going to get with him. Troy’s presence, just being back around here with the guys, it’s good to have him here.”
Tomlin reportedly asked Polamalu to attend the initial week of OTAs, which includes practice sessions through Thursday, but after that he likely will return to California and not come back until the Steelers’ mandatory mini-camp June 11-13. Before he leaves, however, Polamalu can provide guidance to young safeties like fourth-round draft pick Shamarko Thomas.
“I don’t consider myself to be the leader of the defense, but my role has definitely changed,” Polamalu said. “Guys like Shamarko, he’s a great example. He’s very humble and just wants to learn.
“What’s nice is that he’s got people around him who want to give him every experience about football that we’ve had. I want to give him everything I can so he maybe can overcome the mistakes that I had early in my career. We all enjoy that about him, that he is willing to learn.”
Polamalu added that every year feels different, as far as the young players are concerned.
“There are different faces, different veterans and different young guys,” he said. “So, there’s a little more of an edge. Sometimes, when you’ve had some success for a couple years, you can get a little complacent. It may be natural, but I don’t know. It’s something that we’ve dealt with around here last year. But it’s nice to see some young faces, and it’s nice to have some change.”
And since the Steelers are coming off an 8-8, non-playoff season, any type of change couldn’t be a bad thing.