Steelers' Polamalu gets on field for 1st time with Mitchell at minicamp
It's easy to figure out that Troy Polamalu isn't interested in spring practices.
He skipped all 10 of the Steelers voluntary organized team activities over the past three weeks.
Polamalu also isn't particularly fond of football in “helmets and shorts,” even if it could accelerate the learning curve between his first new safety partner in nearly a decade in Mike Mitchell.
What Polamalu is passionate about is playing every snap like he did a year ago. And if that means staying in Southern California and working out with trainer Marv Marinovich and physical therapist Alex Guerrero just like he did a year ago, so be it.
“I think it is tough to be really (shortsighted) in the offseason,” Polamalu said. “The goal is always to be healthy for 16 games during the season.”
Polamalu, however, had no say in the matter Tuesday when the Steelers opened their three-day mandatory minicamp.
The All-Pro safety stepped onto the field for the first time in six months and the first time with Mitchell.
And despite the only communication being an occasional phone call over the past three months, Mitchell and Polamalu already are on the same page after one two-hour practice — at least according to Mitchell.
“You couldn't even tell it was our first day,” said Mitchell, who the Steelers signed to a five-year, $25 million free-agent contract. “We went through some during walkthroughs in the morning, and then applied it in practice.
“I thought we did well. We are two very smart football players, so as long as we know the defense, we can adjust on the fly.”
Mitchell said there already were instances of that Tuesday.
“There are a lot of things unsaid,” Mitchell said. “If he is moving one way, I am moving opposite. Just working with him, talking with him, being around him was good.”
Polamalu's assessment was a bit more low key.
“It's just helmets and shorts,” Polamalu said. “We can get really fascinated about playing football in helmets and shorts.”
Even though each has played a lot of snaps in the NFL, there likely will be some growing pains in the near future. Not with on the field interaction, but more with off-the-field things.
Polamalu has partnered with two safeties for virtually his entire 11-year career — Chris Hope and Ryan Clark — and has won Super Bowls with each.
Polamalu said he believes what made those two pairings so successful was there off-the-field relationships. Polamalu had strong friendships with Hope and Clark.
“What's kind of weird about that is that it's never been a big relationship thing as far as who plays free and who plays strong,” Polamalu said. “But what made Chris Hope and I very successful on the back end is that we were great friends. The same thing with Ryan. He and I were great friends. Hopefully, we will be as successful as Chris (Hope) and I were and Ryan and I were.”
The first thing Polamalu — who had a team-high five forced fumbles last year — will have to do is stay healthy because a healthy Polamalu typically translates into Steelers wins.
The last two times he played more than 1,000 snaps was 2010 and 2008. The Steelers defense finished first in the pass both years and advanced to the Super Bowl.
After a down season last year where they fell to ninth against the pass, the Steelers decided part of the reason was their safety play.
Thus Mitchell was brought in and Polamalu's contract was extended.
“There is always an adjustment,” Polamalu said. “The safety position for every team is a plug and play position. Obviously here, it is really unique on how we work things and how we play things and how we maneuver different positions and understanding the defense.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib
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