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Steelers film session: Polamalu gets some protection

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 9:16 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
The Steelers' Troy Polamalu plays against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium Dec. 2, 2012.
Charlie Batch looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 2, 2012. Batch was honored with the Byron 'Whizzer' White Award on Thursday in recognition of his community work. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Christopher Horner
The Steelers' Cortez Allen breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith during the second quarter Sunday Dec. 2, 2012 at M&T Bank Stadium. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Troy Polamalu had played only 21 snaps since the season-opener in Denver because of a torn calf muscle, and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau promised to ease the All-Pro safety back into the lineup against the Ravens.

Well, LeBeau did and he didn't when it came to limiting Polamalu.

Polamalu played 50 of the 64 Steelers defensive snaps Sunday against the Ravens, including 21 of the first 28, and played as many as 24 snaps in a row in the second half, including 25 of the final 28.

For the majority of the game, LeBeau protected Polamalu by putting him in deep coverage. But only after reminding the Ravens what Polamalu is capable of by blitzing him twice during the first series.

What LeBeau wanted to do is make sure that the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco were aware that Polamalu was healthy, and that they needed to account for him moving around the field at any time.

In reality, LeBeau wanted Polamalu in coverage.

Three of the first four Baltimore offensive plays, LeBeau had Polamalu at the line of scrimmage — an area where his replacement, Will Allen, never goes.

Polamalu blitzed Flacco twice in those first three plays, then basically played deep coverage after that to protect Polamalu's calf.

Polamalu was in deep coverage 25 of the final 31 plays, finishing with only two tackles.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

• Mike Wallace was labeled as a co-starter by Mike Tomlin earlier in the week. Wallace did start against the Ravens, but his snaps were significantly down compared to other games this season and his career average. Wallace played 41 of the 67 offensive snaps Sunday, or 61 percent. Before he found himself as a co-starter with Emmanuel Sanders, Wallace played in 83 percent of the snaps this year. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2010, Wallace played in 88.4 percent of the Steelers' offensive snaps. Sanders played in 49 of the 67 snaps against the Ravens.

• The Steelers got a break two plays before the game-winning kick by Shaun Suisham when a false start wasn't called on tight end Heath Miller, who was lined up at fullback. Miller clearly moved forward a click before the ball was snapped. Now, it probably wouldn't have made a difference because there really is no difference between a 42 and a 47-yard field goal when your kicker has made 27 straight inside 40.

• The Steelers are going to need Cortez Allen for at least a couple weeks because of Ike Taylor's injured leg. And what the second-year cornerback did against the Ravens should deter teams from targeting Allen in the future. Allen was targeted 12 times, allowed six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown and was called a pass interference penalty, but also had three pass defenses, three tackles and a quarterback hit despite playing on the outside for the first time all year. All of Allen's plays this year had come as the nickel back before Sunday.

• Maurkice Pouncey is one of the best pulling centers in the NFL. As it relates to guard, he has some work to do. Pouncey was forced to play guard for the first time since college, and even though he pulled six times, only two of them turned out positive — both against safety Bernard Pollard. One time, Pouncey got caught up in the line, another he slipped and fell leading to a negative run and then flat-out missed Suggs on one pull leading to a minus-3-yard run by Jonathan Dwyer. Other than that, Pouncey played very well considering the circumstances.

• Baltimore was content on not blitzing Batch and packing the box making underneath passes difficult to complete. The Ravens blitzed Batch only seven times as he completed five of them for 72 yards. Batch also was able to be successful with play-action. He was 3-of-3 for 58 yards.

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