Honestly, aside from Bob Sanders in 2006 and 2007 has there been a defensive player that has meant more to his team? For a franchise known for blood thirsty linebackers it’s ironic that the Steelers most valuable defender is a safety with pretty hair from Southern Cal. Oh sure I mention this in jest but let’s have some fun with this. For starters when someone says “Steelers defense” what comes to mind? You think of menacing images of Joe Greene, toothless Jack Lambert, a scowling Gregg Lloyd, a taunting Joey Porter, or even James Harrison….hell Brett Keisel with that beard even. Well I guess I do because linebackers are the essence of football in my mind. They intimidated the opposition with looks that could kill. Yet the soft spoken Polamalu is not only overdue in winning this award it’s deserved.
They are just a different ball club when he is on the field. He missed two games this year; the teams went 1-1 without him, and are a .500 team in the games he’s missed over his career. Pittsburgh is just a different ball club with him on the field. His intensity and big plays have earned him this reward. It gives us another storyline going into Super Bowl XLV with Troy edging out Clay Matthews but Troy has been deserving of this award for a long time and Matthews will have many more opportunities.
Someone is going to argue that it’s not a lifetime achievement award yet face it he made the single best defensive play of the season. How decisive was it. Consider that the Ravens and Steelers were embroiled in a week 13 battle for first place in the AFC North. It was late in the 4th quarter, with 2 minutes to go when Polamalu’s sack and subsequent forced fumble was returned to the Ravens 12 yard line. The Steelers scored a few plays later to escape with a 13-10 win with only 22 seconds to go. He set up the Steelers ONLY TD of that game. They won the division while the Wildcard Ravens had to fight through the wildcard round finally succumbing to the rested Steelers in the divisional playoff. Had the sack not taken place, Pittsburgh goes on the road and probably falls to a rested Baltimore Ravens bunch in the divisional round.
That sack could be the difference between Pittsburgh’s season being over or a chance at a record seventh Super Bowl. If you can name a player with a signature play holding that much significance, show me.