If anyone needed any confirmation of how important Troy Polamalu is to the Pittsburgh Steelers today's game against the NY Jets should give you all you need. While the Steelers lost a tough one 22-17 as time expired on Ben Roethlisberger and the offense at the Jets 10 yard line, one couldn't help but ponder how this game would not have been this close if 43 were on the field. Time and time again, the Jets would gain yards and make plays that had Troy been on the field they wouldn't have probably made.
A crucial 3rd and long and Ryan Mundy misses the sack on Jets QB Sanchez. The Jets down in the Red Zone and a ball falls short in front of Mundy. Would Polamalu have turned it into yet another interception? Probably. Runners breaking past the line and knocking over Ryan Clark. Wouldn't happen with Polamalu in that spot. Mark Sanchez takes a naked bootleg around the outside and he could have crawled into the end zone. He ran around the side that Polamalu often comes from. Would he have been fooled? I don't know.
I am not saying he would have made every play, but you can bet he would have made his share of them and the game would have a very different outcome.
Of course it is not only the plays that Polamalu makes himself. It is what his presence allows his teammates to do as well. Having Troy back there allows Lawrence Timmons to play a whole different game. It puts Ryan Clark in a supporting role where he doesn't have to carry the load. Troy can even cheat over and help Bryant McFadden appear to cover his man.
There is no question who is the MVP of the Steelers. With Polamalu they are the best defense in football. Without Troy they are a decent defense, but lack of turnovers and ability to make the big play is sadly lacking. Ultimately it will be the difference between going deep in the playoffs or not.
Let me also say thought that as valuable as Troy is to the Steelers, Bruce Arians does more to shoot us in the feet than anyone. What was he thinking calling a draw play in our own endzone? If you are going to run, run straight ahead. Ultimately that cost us the game. Mendy has 100 yards on like 17 carries, why don't we call his number more?
I know changing offensive coordinators at this stage of the season is not in the cards, but please all I want for Christmas is a new offensive coordinator next year!
The special teams play gave me a deja vu from last year as well. It wasn't just the opening kick off taken to the house by Brad Smith with no one laying a hand on him. Our kick offs were lame, giving the Jets great field position. Our punts, even from the Jets 35-40 yard line failed to pin the Jets deep in their zone. We would have been better off going for it on 4th down.
The flip side of the coin had the Jets constantly pinning us inside our 10 yard line. One of these eventually proved our undoing as the Jets picked up the safety. Our special teams were just not sharp today.
The good news is that we still wrapped up a play off spot today. I doubt Polamalu will play against Carolina Thursday night. I hope we don't need him. But make no mistake about it, without Troy on the field, don't look for the Steelers to go far in the playoffs.