Tory Polamalu is not finding much love in the peanut gallery these days.
The Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year recently found himself on the blunt end of some pretty harsh criticism of two members of the national media. Let’s dissect these arguments.
Polamalu “Over Rated”?
CBS Sports Pete Prisco went so far as to label Troy Polamalu as the league’s “most overrated player.” He further explained:
He was selected as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 — an award I couldn’t figure out — and then disappeared in the playoffs, even getting trucked by Ray Rice of the Ravens in the playoffs.
He was a spinning top in the Super Bowl, trying to cover Packers receivers and instead watched them rip off big gains and two touchdowns on his watch.
The Packers exposed the reason I think Polamalu is overrated. He isn’t great in coverage and the NFL is now a cover game. [Emphasis added]
Ok, let’s attack Prisco’s points on Polamalu in order.
He can’t understand Polamalu’s Defensive Player of the year award? Really?
All he did was make game-changing plays in contests against Atlanta, Buffalo, and Baltimore. His play-making ability also ensured that the Steelers struck blood early and dominated rivals Cincinnati and Cleveland.
- OK, both teams were terrible in 2010, but these were both crucial, must win division contests in December. That’s when underrated players fold.
Let’s not forget the red zone interception that Polamalu made against the Raiders, which slammed the door on any possible comeback in a game where the officials seemed determined to penalize the Steelers for sneezing, let alone hitting, too hard.
As for the Ray Rice comment, having watched the play again, give Rice (and the entire Ravens offense) credit for an incredible play. Polamalu appears to have simply miss judged the angle on his hit. Not to excuse him, but hardly an error that negates the rest of his accomplishments.
Polamalu’s Performance in the 2010 Playoffs
Polamalu took some criticism for not making a dramatic play against Baltimore but, as Joe Starkey pointed out, Joe Flacco only passed for 125 yards in that game, didn’t complete a pass longer than 16 yards, and his top two receivers had zero catches for zero yards.
That only occurs if good things are happening in the secondary. And good things do not happen in the Steelers secondary if Polamalu’s plays poorly.
- It is true that Polamalu was not up to par in the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl, but he was playing with an Achilles injury.
The argument that a player is overrated if his level drops off in post-season is both a valid and one which Mike Wallace perhaps needs/may need to answer.
But has Prisco forgotten what a healthy Polamalu can do in the playoffs? Perhaps, so let’s remind him:
Yeah, now you were telling me that Polamalu was overrated?
49 Players Ahead of Number 43?
Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King has been issuing his own list of the NFL’s top 100 players, and he only rated Troy Polamalu at number 50 (while also questioning another ranking that put Ben Roethlisberger at 41.
King explains his low rating of Polamalu this way:
Here’s why I put the reigning defensive player of the year where I did: This list is not based entirely on how a player played in 2010, or where his current body of work places him today. It also includes how a player will play in 2011 and the future. The past is important for establishing greatness, and Polamalu has certainly been a great strong safety. But what is he now? I’m not sure. He’s missed 13 games due to injury in the last two seasons. He was mostly invisible in the Steelers’ run to the Super Bowl last season.
I take issue with King’s comment that Polamalu was “invisible in the Steelers run the Super Bowl” for the reason below.
Beating the Ravens in December in Baltimore was most certainly an integral part of the Steelers run the Super Bowl.
Beyond that, I am unable argue to vigorously against the rest of King’s charge.
- Troy Polamalu is one of the greatest players in the game today – when healthy.
- Given what he does, the way he does it, and when he does it, it I argue that Troy Polamalu has the mark of an all-time great – when healthy.
If you think the later comment is an overstatement, think again.
One of the strongest arguments in favor of Lynn Swann’s enshrinement in Canton during the 1990’s when Hall of Fame voters, including King, resisted his induction was that even 20 years after his retirement, fans would still marvel at an acrobatic catch and say “That was a Lynn Swann catch.”
- 20 years from now, people are likely to look at incredible defensive plays and say, “That was a Troy Polamalu play.”
But with that said, King, sadly, may be right. Earlier this off season Tim Gleason of Behind the Steel Curtain aka “Mary Rose” compared Polamalu to a European sports car – best car on the highway – when not in the shop.
Polamalu’s explosive play is taking its toll on his body.
But Steel Curtain Rising certainly hopes that Polamalu has a couple of three more years of peak performance left in him.
Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.