Even though Troy Polamalu elaborates about how important it is for the Pittsburgh Steelers to peak at the right time next year, he’s getting an earlier start than usual on his training. Polamalu is attending the Steelers voluntary OTAs, something he’s rarely done since the early years of his career. After helping lead the Steelers to yet another elite season statistically, the Steelers defense fell apart in their playoff loss to the Denver Broncos. With Hines Ward and James Farrior no longer with the team, Polamalu seemingly is helping fill the void in leadership by assuming an even larger role. That’s nothing but good news for all of Steeler Nation.
Polamalu joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh to talk about enjoying himself at OTAs last week, why he decided to attend this year, how important it is for the Steelers to peak at the right time this coming season, his impression of the Steelers young defensive backs so far at OTAs, the advantage he and Ryan Clark have as a result of playing together for so long, and what Dick LeBeau does to change his defense slightly each year.
On what brings him to OTAs and whether he’s enjoying himself so far:
“Absolutely I’m enjoying myself. It’s nice to be around the team, obviously it’s another opportunity to get better. I’m not able obviously to train as well as I could out in California, but it’s just good to be here with the team.”
On what the Steelers need to improve to be an even better defense than they were a year ago:
“You know, what’s funny from what I’ve learned playing this game going into my tenth year, you don’t have to be the best defense during the season or the best football team during the season, you’ve just got to be good enough to get into the playoffs and then be good in the playoffs. We went 15-1 and lost in the AFC Championship Game — we were definitely the best team in football during the season. And the New England Patriots went 16-0, they were the best team during the season. You’ve just got to peak at the playoffs. When it came down to crunch time, we didn’t perform as a defense, and as a team generally speaking, during the playoffs.”
On his initial impression of the many young defensive backs on the Steelers roster:
“They’ve learned a lot already. We throw everything at them all throughout mini-camp and even OTAs. It’s tough to really judge anybody especially within this defense when you’re not hitting anybody and you don’t have pads”
If he thinks he and Ryan Clark have an advantage because of how long they’ve played together:
“We think it’s an advantage because we’re able to communicate on a different level. We have a great feeling, including Ike. All three of us, we’ve had so many reps with one another, our communication is on a different level and our understanding of the game and with the defense and what possibly might happen with each one of us throughout a play. So we think it’s an advantage.”
On what changes long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau makes on a year-to-year basis:
“Well as the game evolves, of course our defense has to evolve, and stats I guess are the telling truth — and rings…well, rings and then stats — are the tale-telling story, and Coach LeBeau, nobody’s had more No. 1 ranked defenses as Coach LeBeau. So he’s evolved just like everybody has.”