Troy Polamalu Is Difference-Maker on Steelers' Dominant Defense

David KlinglerCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2010

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Safety Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The absence of one player can't make that big of a difference, can it? If that one player is the dynamic Troy Polamalu it seems it can.

It didn't take long for Troy to make his presence felt and lift the Steelers defense back to a level it last reached back in 2008, which just happened to end with Pittsburgh hoisting the Lombardi trophy for a record sixth time.

There is a noticeable difference in the defense in the amount of huge plays they are making, most notably the turnovers they are generating. They lead the AFC with 12 takeaways, and that is a stark contrast to last season when the defense struggled at times to make game-changing plays.

Troy has certainly made a difference. He has the best range of any safety in the league and seemingly makes plays from one sideline to the other.

Whether it's breaking up a pass 40 yards downfield in coverage or tripping up a ball-carrier four yards deep in the backfield, Polamalu's flowing hair seems to be everywhere.

Troy's teammates feed off of his energy, as evidenced by the significant increase in turnovers when he is in the lineup.

The defense is currently ranked fourth in yards allowed and first in points allowed. They have been simply dominant through the first four games, and were largely responsible for the 3-1 start absent Ben Roethlisberger.

Even in the one loss, they twice set the offense up in scoring position only to have them fail to score either time. The defense certainly played well enough to win the game.

So, does one player make that big of a difference?

Judging from the way the Steelers defense is playing thus far, I'd say yes.