Pittsbugh Steelers Defense Makes Big Plays Without Troy Polamalu

Mad ChadAnalyst IJanuary 17, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 15:  Safety Ryan Clark #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with teammates James Farrior #51 and Troy Polamalu #43 after an interception of quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Troy Polamalu is arguably the most important defensive player in the league to his team. He is a freak of nature that plays the position of safety unlike anyone I have ever seen. This year he was named the AFC defensive player of the year and could end up being named the NFL defensive player of the year.

Last week I wrote that the Steelers would beat the Baltimore Ravens because of Ben Roethlisberger and Mr. Polamalu, and the fact that those two always seem to come up big against the Ravens. Big Ben certainly came up big in a very clutch performance, helping the Steelers advance to the AFC Championship.

However, Troy failed to make any big plays like I thought he would. I'm not knocking Polalmalu, I know that he's a great player. I think it's due to the fact that the Ravens tried their best to stay away from him. For the game Polamalu had just two tackles, forced zero turnovers and had zero defended passes. He almost whiffed on more than one tackle attempt.

If the Ravens were trying to avoid Polamalu they sure accomplished that goal. At the same time I can't help but think that part of the reason Polamalu didn't have a great game was the fact that he might still be affected by an ankle/Achilles injury. Troy was limited in practice all week like and is probably nowhere near 100 percent right now. He might not even by 75 percent.

I don't want to seem like I'm picking on Troy, but if Troy is 100 percent healthy in Saturday's game and plays up to his standards the game might not have been as close.

Despite Troy being a non-factor the defense played amazing. They allowed just 126 total yards against the Ravens! That's simply amazing. The Ravens put up 24 points but they had a defensive touchdown and another converted a Rashard Mendenhall fumble for another short touchdown.

In the second half the defense went from good to great. They forced three turnovers, two fumbles, and one interception that all lead to points by the Steelers. They had Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense rattled. Am I the only person that thought Flacco looked scared in the second half of that game?

Troy's partner at safety, Ryan Clark, played one of the best games of his career. He had five tackles, including three solo tackles, two of which went for a loss. He also defended two passes and had a key interception in the third quarter.

The defensive line looked unblockable for much of the game. The three starters Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton, and Ziggy Hood accounted for 12 tackles and one sack. At the same time they helped free up the linebackers, helping them make a plethora of plays. Keisel was named as a Pro Bowl alternate and he showed why on Saturday. Hood played the best football of his career, having five tackles, and finally looked like a first round pick.

I thought that James Harrison was the best defensive player on the field for the Steelers. His stat line is something that would be envied by 90 percent of the linebackers in the NFL. For the game he had seven tackles, five solo tackles, three sacks, three tackles for a loss and two passes defended. He played the game as if he was on a mission to destroy everything wearing white. I for one was inspired by Harrison's game on Saturday.

The Ravens scored just three points in the second half and had a really hard time moving the ball. If the Steelers don't lose two fumbles in the first half they might have blown the Ravens out. The Steelers defense played some of it's best football in quite sometime in the last 30 minutes of the game on Saturday. And that was without the help of Polamalu. 

If the Steelers defense can play like they did in the second half against Baltimore this Sunday against the Jets, they will not lose. If they play like they did in the second half and get a healthier, better Troy Polamalu they might blow the Jets out.

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