Any Steelers fan with a hint of visual acuity realizes that Troy Polamalu is a linch pin on the Pittsburgh defense. It's obvious to all in Steel-town that with Troy comes glory—and without Troy enters heartache.
His direct impact on a defensive unit that is ranked among the top few with annual consistency speaks for itself. Among great athletes and playing with some of the league's greatest defenders, he is arguably (to overstate it) the most important man on the field, playing behind the modern Steel Curtain (would that be the Steel Stage?).
If the Steelers' secondary is a Steel Stage, during most plays it is Troy that steals the show!
For his big-game impact and statistical prowess, there are still those analysts who downgrade his ability, namely by using the "what have you done for me lately" method of reducing a player's talents to his most recent game. A couple months ago, Pete Prisco wrote an article that calls Troy Polamalu the most overrated player in football.
In a city where citizens are angry over Ed Reed's ranking ahead of Troy, this elicited even more ire. In truth, the argument regarding the better safety became stale long ago, and both campgrounds—Reed's Renegades and Troy's Troopers—have their solid reasons for preferring their defensive hero.
Yet, Prisco doesn't justify his position with a simple comparison or any statistics. He cites two games.
The first reference is to Tom Brady, implying that Troy's struggles against the Patriots and their short-range passing attack. In truth, the Steelers defense owns that issues as a whole, annually bested by Brady and his quick wideouts. Truthfully, a study of the 2010 game against New England shows the astute Patriots' quarterback, ranked the best in the game this summer by his peers, didn't target a receiver covered by Polamalu once. Not one time. Zero.
Indeed, Tom Brady, the game's best quarterback, avoided Troy Polamalu.
Then again, Prisco also heralded Peyton Manning as superior to Tom Brady before Manning had ever even beaten the Boston behemoth. In dispute, Kerry Byrne of Cold, Hard Football Facts offered to debate Pete on the issue. Naturally, Prisco declined, almost certainly citing the classic rationale of those in the wrong: "He just is."
In other words, Steelers fans should have taken this for what it was worth. Including me.
The other game the journalist offers in his rating of the Steelers safety is the Super Bowl, where the one-legged safety did give up a touchdown, but was targeted only twice.
Whether or not Polamalu was over-aggressive during that game is not the issue; Prisco's small sample of two games versus years of statistics that bear Troy as an elite strong safety (a mark that is set against the average, not just Ed Reed, who happens to play free safety) is laughable. Apparently, Pete missed the 2009 AFC Championship Game and nearly every game Troy has ever played against Philip Rivers.
This article is not meant as a direct slight to a very successful sportswriter. It is simply in defense of Troy.
After all, one thing is not up for debate: Troy Polamalu is a great safety. Damn great.
Yes, his physical play does make him injury-prone.
Sure, he pays for his aggressiveness sometimes.
Yet, for every time fans can place blame on Polamalu for an undesirable outcome, they can point to ten other results made immaculate by the hard work and defensive prowess of the "Black n' Gold" safety who delivers black and blue.
Steelers fans can vividly recall the cutback run that secured Pittsburgh's place in Super Bowl XLIII. They remember Chris Johnson being cut down in the backfield by the speedy torpedo with the free-flying locks.
Hell, the man leaps over offensive lines like Superman to stuff ball carriers almost annually. Who else is doing that?
The "Head n' Shoulders Honcho" is head and shoulders above the vast majority of his peers, and he is one of the biggest reasons for the recent championship success of an illustrious franchise.
Here are five reasons that the Pro Bowl safety is one of the greatest players in the NFL today and one of the finest defensive backs in history.