His absence was felt in the Steelers’ Thursday night contest against the Tennessee Titans.
Polamalu is a defensive play-making threat who will stick his nose in the box to blow up a run play just as effectively as he can cover a deep zone and pick off a pass.
His freelancing ability allows Ryan Clark to be a steadying force for the defensive backs, but the two have only been able to play together once this season—against Philadelphia in Week 5.
On Thursday of Week 6, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson was allowed to produce just his second respectable rushing game of the year. His first also came against a nationally respected defense, the Houston Texans.
Matt Hasselbeck attacked the deep middle of the field with regularity without Polamalu flying around.
Polamalu’s presence has affected the Steelers defense in statistical metrics, as well.
In the Steelers’ season-opener against the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh held the Peyton Manning-led team to 31 points in Denver. That game took place without the services of two other defensive stars, James Harrison and Clark.
Polamalu and the Steelers held the high-octane Philadelphia Eagles offense to 14 points in Week 5. Between the two games, the Steelers have recovered three fumbles.
Clark, Woodley and Harrison were all available for the Eagles game.
In games that Polamalu missed, the Steelers have faced offenses that have not been as threatening as that of the Eagles or the Broncos.
A struggling Titans offense managed to get 26 points on the board against the Steelers in Week 6.
The Steelers are 1-1 with Polamalu this season. They are 1-2 without him.
Polamalu is missed on the field by Pittsburgh, but Steelers’ opponents are happy to exchange pleasantries with him on the sideline.