Polamalu considers himself doubly blessed
The aches and pains that accompany every Steelers game have never felt more real to Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu since the birth of his son.
"Sometimes it's hard to carry him around in the middle of the night, because you're so sore and beat up," Polamalu said regarding his first child, Paisios, who was born Oct. 31. "Your arms, your shoulders hurt, you can't hold your own child."
The first Christmas with Paisios will be a joyous one for the family's breadwinner, who is enjoying another tremendous season on the field but an even better one at home.
As a new father, Polamalu sees life differently and more clearly than he did a few months ago.
"Having a son changes the priorities in your life, obviously," said Polamalu, who said Paisios was named for a Greek Orthodox saint. "Responsibilities change, because you've got to change diapers in the middle of the night. Right now, he's still really young, but it's nice when it's the middle of the night, and he's sleeping on my chest.
"My family has always come first. My wife (Theodora) has always come first. My son is another person that I love as much as my wife."
Troy grew up in a family that always celebrated Christmas together. With one brother, three sisters and a host of cousins, there was never a shortage of family members together for the holidays. With the Steelers concluding the regular season on Sunday against Cleveland at Heinz Field, Troy will celebrate the holiday quietly with Theodora and Paisios.
"It's really exciting this time of year," he said. "All those things that put you in the mood, ornaments and trees. Now you get to re-live that through (Paisios). We've already had the most special Thanksgiving we've ever had. I anticipate this being the best Christmas.
"Once you get into high school, you kind of (lose) that zeal for Christmas you had when you were a child. It's a really cool tradition when the family gets together -- grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren. God willing, one day I'll be able to be the grandparent."
Asked if he's changed since becoming a father, Polamalu said he believes he is pretty much the same person. He's still quiet and keeps to himself, even if he is a bit of a prankster, according to Steelers defensive end Nick Eason.
"He's quiet, but once you get to know him, he talks a lot," said Eason, who got to know Polamalu away from football last season through Bible study class. "He probably ranks among the top three pranksters on the team. He's not really a vocal tell-a-joke type person, but he does a lot of things around here that people don't know he's responsible for.
"Last year was my first year here. Troy opened a Twix (candy bar), ate the caramel off the top and put it back in the wrapper and gave it to me. I was eating it and thought it was a new kind of Twix. Once that happened, I said, 'Oh, man, this kid ain't quiet at all.'"
Eason joined safety Ryan Clark, tight end Heath Miller and practice-team member Roy Lewis among a select group of teammates who attended Paisios' baptism on Dec. 16.
"It was an honor for me to be invited, and something I'll always remember," Eason said.
Clark said he has seen one major change in Polamalu.
"The biggest thing you can see is he can't wait to get home," Clark said. "He has his wife there and his son. I'm happy for him."
Polamalu, 27, said the Steelers have always felt like an extended family to him.
"The personality of our defense is how well we get along," he said. "It's just a product of what you see on the field. We love each other authentically. We play for each other. We love our coach (defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau). We play for our coach. We play close defense.
"There's something different about playing here. They really provide a nice, family atmosphere. There's not too many occupations in the world where people endure what we endure. We endure injuries together, we're around each other so much. There's a lot of personal problems that we talk to each other about. That's what's beautiful about this game."