By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — For those with the opinion that Troy Polamalu could be playing better, you’re not alone.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ strong safety agrees with that assessment. Polamalu has criticized his own play this season and was extremely derogatory about his performance against the New Orleans Saints this past Sunday night.
“I think there are times in games, personally, where there were a lot of opportunities for me to make plays,” Polamalu said Wednesday. And I didn’t make them. It doesn’t have anything to do with anything physical with me, and maybe I’m second-guessing myself a little too much. But, other than that, we’re 5-2.
“Against New Orleans, there were some plays that I wish I could get back. … More or less, it was knowing something and just not taking advantage of it. There were a couple plays where I thought I had a good feel for it, but I didn’t make the play. That’s last week. (But) I feel good. I feel great, as good as I felt going into last year.”
Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden did not criticize his secondary-mate.
“Troy always is our X-factor,” McFadden said. “He’s able to do exceptional things, and you can rely on him to do whatever you need him to do. And he more than likely will be successful at it. That’s just the type of added dimension that he brings to the table. (But) we all feel the same way about our play and want to be as close to perfection as possible. Sometimes, we fall short.
“And you can always look back to see that you could have done something different. Maybe things would have turned out different, but we all go through that. We’re all critical of ourselves, even in a victory, pondering what we could have done different, maybe better. But we’re all behind him 100 percent and have had those same thoughts about ourselves every game, all the time.
“(And) there’s no doubt that he’s played well,” McFadden added. “He’s always where I need him to be, and from a safety standpoint — as far as I’m concerned — that’s very, very good. But that’s how he grades himself. We’re always tough on ourselves, but I have no problem with him or Ryan. They make our job a lot less stressful with the way that they play.”
Fellow defensive players James Farrior and Ryan Clark didn’t believe Polamalu was a different player, but Polamalu continued his criticism.
“I did give up one big play on the sidelines, but there were a couple plays instinctively that I thought I had,” Polamalu said. “But I didn’t make them and take advantage of them.
“And in my opinion, they would have been game-changing plays. I believed that I knew those plays and should have done something about them, but it’s also going a little bit outside of the defense and maybe expecting a little more from myself than I should.”
Against the Miami Dolphins, NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson believed that Polamalu pulled up instead of making a big hit that could have been a finable offense. Polamalu disagreed and expanded on that comment a bit.
“I don’t know about the referee’s decisions to throw a flag, but there definitely is a paranoia that is unneeded just because we had the big weekend a few weekends ago when there were five hits out of a thousand,” Polamalu added. “So, I think there is too much paranoia. It’s football.
“If people want to watch soccer, they can go watch soccer. Honestly, overseas, when people are attracted to this game, they’re going to see the big hits and don’t care as much about touchdowns and other things. So, you’re also taking away from what attracts people to this game.”
Notes: Rookie OLB Thaddeus Gibson was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers after being released by the Steelers so they could add DT Steve McLendon to their 53-man roster. … Also, Tampa Bay claimed DL Al Woods from the Steelers practice squad. … The Steelers needed to put two players on their practice squad and signed LB Chris Ellis and DL Sunny Harris, as McLendon has stayed on the 53-man roster.