Polamalu regains game-changing ability

| Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

Troy Polamalu has intercepted a pass in each of the Steelers' first two games. Just don't suggest to the apparently superstitious strong safety that he is close to starting a meaningful streak in that department.

"You don't talk to pitchers about no-hitters, right?" Polamalu said with a grin. "You just can't talk about it."

With apologies to Polamalu, his two interceptions are two more than he had last season, and they are a reflection of two things: a more aggressive approach that the defensive backs are taking this season and a return to health by the most dynamic player on the Steelers' defense.

Polamalu is 100 percent after battling a number of injuries and missing eight games the past two seasons. His teammates got a chance to fully appreciate what he can do when healthy when they watched film of their 10-6 win over the Browns.

On one play, Polamalu timed the snap perfectly and leaped over both lines, sabotaging a Browns run and showing yet again that few players in the NFL are as disruptive as the four-time Pro Bowler.

"He's playing at a high level, but he's healthy and I think that's always got something to do with it," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "You can tell that Troy is healthy. I like him healthy."

Not only is Polamalu healthy, he is fresh, ironically enough, because of an injury.

The 5-foot-10, 207-pound strong safety missed all of training camp with a hamstring problem. Given the kind of burst he has shown in the Steelers' first two games, it looks like Polamalu benefited from not taking part in the grueling practices held in often sweltering weather at St. Vincent College.

"We're 2-0, I'm healthy right now, so I guess I wouldn't want to change a thing," Polamalu said.

Polamalu is one of several game-changers the Steelers have on defense. What sets him apart is his closing speed, that can be breathtaking.

"He's so fast from Point A to Point B," cornerback Bryant McFadden said. "He goes from 0 to 60 in a second. He's that guy that's always going to be around the ball like you're used to seeing and making critical tackles and making big plays."

The Steelers have already made their share of big plays on defense.

They have four interceptions through two games after picking off 11 passes all of last season.

McFadden, who intercepted Browns quarterback Derek Anderson on Sunday, said the defensive backs have developed a more aggressive mind-set.

That has manifested itself in the three interceptions defensive backs have made (outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley has the team's other interception). The Steelers had just eight interceptions from their secondary last season.

"From a (defensive back's) standpoint, our first emphasis is pretty much not to allow the receiver to catch the ball," McFadden said. "This year, everybody is focusing on if we get in the area, we're trying to pick it off. That's something we've been practicing. We feel like if we catch the ones we get our hands on, we'll be OK."

Additional Information:

Award worthy

Strong safety Troy Polamalu and running back Willie Parker are finalists for individual awards.

Polamalu has been nominated for the NFL's GMC Sierra Defensive Player of the Week Award. The strong safety had an interception, two passes defensed and a tackle for a loss in the Steelers' 10-6 win over the Browns.

Parker is a finalist for the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week. He rushed for 105 yards on 28 carries against the Browns and has gone over the 100-yard mark in both Steelers' games this season.

Fan can vote for each award at NFL.com/gmc and NFL.com .

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