Healthy Polamalu eager for encore
PITTSBURGH – Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is hoping his revamped offseason program will help him again this fall.
The 33-year-old Polamalu played nearly every snap in 2013 thanks in part to the regimen he put together with trainer Marv Marinovich last spring. Sessions with physical therapist Alex Guerrero also helped Polamalu strengthen the balky calf muscles that caused him to miss nine games in 2012.
The result was a productive season that ended with Polamalu making the Pro Bowl for the eighth time. He began minicamp on Tuesday hoping for a repeat in 2014.
“I think it’s tough to be really near-sighted in the offseason,” Polamalu said. “The goal always is to be healthy for 16 games during the season. So, I was doing my best (the past few weeks) to prepare for that.”
The Steelers made a concerted effort to ease Polamalu’s load during the offseason. Pittsburgh lured safety Mike Mitchell away from Carolina in free agency and selected linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round of the NFL draft.
The speed and athleticism of Mitchell and Shazier should allow Polamalu to remain in the secondary or blitz and not have to play linebacker when the Steelers switch to their nickel, dime and quarters defensive packages, something Polamalu did repeatedly in 2013.
While Polamalu appreciates the move to get younger and faster, he’s going to reserve judgment until the club practices in pads at training camp.
“We could put Usain Bolt and the whole track team out there, but that doesn’t make us a good football team,” he said. “So, we’ll see how everything works out. . Once we put the pads on we’ll really find out who’s made of what.”
Along with the new players, Polamalu was greeted by an old friend, former teammate Joey Porter, now a defensive assistant for the Steelers. Polamalu said he could call him Joey, coach Porter or just his nickname, J. Peezy. Either way, Polamalu believed he could bring a lot to the defense once again.
“Obviously, his experience,” Polamalu said. “His attitude. He really embodied the Steelers way and the Steelers attitude.”
Porter said veterans like Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor call him Coach when “they’re trying to mess with me a little bit. . That’s only when Troy and Ike want to make a joke. They hit me with it, but for the most part they treat me normal.”
Some of the defenses that included Porter, Taylor and Polamalu were the best in the NFL due in part to the players’ intense loyalty and camaraderie. Mitchell and Polamalu were not sure how long it would take for them to build chemistry in the secondary, but they were confident it would happen.
“The more a guy trusts you the more apt he is to understand you,” Mitchell said. “He knows about you, (and) he knows all about what you’re trying to do. Just building that trust comes with time. You don’t gain that in a day. You’ve got to do the right thing, prepare and build the relationship from there.”
Polamalu said a reason why he and former Steelers safeties Chris Hope and Ryan Clark worked so well together was because they were such great friends off the field.
“The strength of this organization has always been in the camaraderie and the relationships of the players off the field, and then we stand up for one another on the field,” Polamalu said. “(So), it’s not about putting your best, most-talented 11 out there, but the 11 that work best together.”