Troy Polamalu: Portrait of a Playmaker

That’s just Troy being Troy. A part of being a great players is not only delivering big plays but delivering them in a timely fashion.” – Mike Tomlin, on Troy Polamalu’s interception against Atlanta.

What defines a playmaker?

Go to Google type in “define: playmaker” or “define: play maker” and you’ll likely be disappointed by bland definitions your query returns.

You’ll be even more disappointed however, if your team lacks playmakers.

When asked to pinpoint his team’s weakness during the dark days of the Steelers 1999 season, Dan Rooney’s response was concise, and it went something like this: “We need playmakers. Guys like Rod Woodson, he was a playmaker when he was here.”

Ten years later the Steelers suffered another disappointing season. Going 9-7 in 2009 was no where near as dramatic as the ’99 nightmare, but the Steelers 5 game losing streak was every bit as ugly as it looked.

Yet, at nearly every position area, the Steelers had playmakers, save perhaps for the offensive line and special teams. Oh, yeah, and the secondary too.

Sunday’s victory against the Falcons starkly demonstrated the difference that a playmaker can make.

Remember the Chicago game.

  • Jay Cutler throws a great pass in traffic, Tyrone Carter is in position, but can’t quite make the play. Touchdown Chicago.

Remember Kansas City.

  • Matt Castle throws deep in the 4th quarter. A red jersey is no where to be found. The ball hits Ryan Clark right in the hands, Clark drops it, and the defending champions drop one to a perennial bottom-feeder.

Remember the debacle against Oakland.

  • The Raiders confidence mounts with each play as they sense the defending champions on the ropes. A ball hits Joe Burnett right on the numbers. He drops it, and the Raiders win.

Something similar could have happened last Sunday. But it did not.

The reason? Troy Polamalu.

Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette thought that Polamalu had a bad game.

Ed Bouchette thought that Polamalu played poorly too.

Troy Polamalu agreed with both.

In the end, it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter because Troy Polamlu is a playmaker.

Polamalu’s 4th quarter interception was neither as dramatic nor as definitive as the one to seal victory in the AFC Championship sending the Steelers to Super Bowl XLIII.

And although it was a spectacular athletic feat, it was nothing phenomenal on the order of the one he nabbed against San Diego in 2008.

No, it was more mundane, and that’s the beauty of it.

Polamalu simply made a play, exactly when the Steelers needed it.

Such playmaking ability was sorely absent in a Steelers secondary that saw games slip away 5 times in the 4th quarter in 2009.

Welcome back Troy. Let all of Steelers Nation join in on toasting your good health.

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