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Troy Polamalu: Steelers don’t need rah-rah leadership

Troy Polamalu Getty Images

The departures of players like Hines Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith has led to questions about leadership around the Steelers.

On offense, the answer is easy. Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback and that meant he was a leader even while Ward was still on the squad. The answer on defense isn’t quite so clear.

Safety Troy Polamalu has been mentioned as a player who should be stepping into that role this season and he seemed to be embracing it when he took part in offseason work with the team for the first time in years. Polamalu insists he isn’t a vocal leader, though, and explained to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that isn’t a problem because he doesn’t think there’s much call for that kind of leadership on the Steelers defense.

“We’ve always had phantom leadership in that we have tradition,” Polamalu said. “There’s a certain way that we do things around here for as far back as I can remember, to Joe Greene and those guys, the way that we prepare ourselves and the way that we play. When you have that sort of phantom leadership, you don’t need a rah-rah guy that’s the face of the franchise that’s always pushing people.”

There might not be a need for anyone to be a rah-rah guy, but that phantom leadership only exists if there are players around who can make sure the old traditions get passed own to the new members of the team. Polamalu, Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor have all spent more than a decade with the Steelers, giving the Steelers plenty of players who fit that bill as they prepare for the coming season.

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21 Responses to “Troy Polamalu: Steelers don’t need rah-rah leadership”
  1. bobzilla1001 says: Aug 1, 2012 10:19 AM

    Polamalu is absolutely the most amazing player I ever watched in my 50 years of watching the Steelers and the NFL.
    When he’s healthy and on the field, the Steelers usually win. When he isn’t healthy and unable to play, the Steelers usually lose. That’s no coincidence.
    It’s also no coincidence that the Steelers didn’t start having Super Bowl success again until Polamalu’s arrival in 2003.
    While the NFL has been called a “quarterback-driven league,” that hasn’t been the case in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have been a defensive-driven team, led by the franchise’s all-time best player.

  2. YouMadCauseImStylingOnYou says: Aug 1, 2012 10:28 AM

    Except you know, when he’s cherry picking at LOS and Tim Tebow torches him for an 80 yard TD pass.

  3. whodeyinpa says: Aug 1, 2012 10:32 AM

    bobzilla1001 says:
    Aug 1, 2012 10:19 AM
    Polamalu is absolutely the most amazing player I ever watched in my 50 years of watching the Steelers and the NFL.
    When he’s healthy and on the field, the Steelers usually win. When he isn’t healthy and unable to play, the Steelers usually lose. That’s no coincidence.
    It’s also no coincidence that the Steelers didn’t start having Super Bowl success again until Polamalu’s arrival in 2003.
    While the NFL has been called a “quarterback-driven league,” that hasn’t been the case in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have been a defensive-driven team, led by the franchise’s all-time best player.
    =======================

    Yeah because you were contending for Super Bowls with Tommy Maddox playing Quarterback….get your head out of where the sun doesn’t shine. It’s a QB driven league for everyone and although I’m a Bengals fan you need to give Big Ben all the credit he deserves. That guy is the X-factor for this team week in and week out. You really didn’t start contending for SB’s again until Ben came in as a rookie in 2004. You were 6-10 in 2003.

  4. pjrhc says: Aug 1, 2012 10:36 AM

    As a Packer fan who loved watching the Pack stop the Steelers for a Title, I agree with bobzilla1001. This beast is the difference-maker when he’s healthy. Speaks soft, hits hard.

  5. stoogy says: Aug 1, 2012 10:37 AM

    This team is not ganna win many games

  6. flaccotoboldin says: Aug 1, 2012 10:49 AM

    Sounds like a veiled dig at Ray Lewis’ style of leadership . . .

    That said, last year the Steelers were putrid by AFC North standards, barely eeeking out a lot of games, getting swept by the Ravens when they usually do the sweeping or split, etc etc and eventually getting knocked out by Tebow.

    While I always respect the Steelers and expect that they’ll be in the playoffs . . . I think there is concern for their defense with some turnover and Polamalu in some level of decline.

    Polamalu is their defensive engine, alone with Harrison. If they 2 of them aren’t having impact and aren’t leading the team, at least by their actions, their defense becomes far more mortal

  7. eleventyeight says: Aug 1, 2012 11:20 AM

    The Steelers ARE a QB-driven team. We’ve had great secondary and defensive players for decades. Troy may very well be amongst the very best of the best, but never doubt that Ben Roethlisberger has had EVERYTHING to do with our success.

    The fact that both arrived in back-to-back years akes it hard to tel if one was more instrumental than the other, but without both players we wouldn’t be the nearly perennial contenders we are now.

    Don’t let Ben’s poor showing in his first SB trick you into thinking that he’s not the QB version of TP. Both are magnificent players and we’re lucky to have ‘em.

    Oh- and though we do virtually always win with Troy it’s closer to a little bit above .600 without him.

  8. tommy57 says: Aug 1, 2012 11:39 AM

    “Leadership” on a team can come from anywahere, not necessarily the top performers. It’s more personality than performance driven. Ture, the QB, owing to the position is normally the leader of the offense, but to become a true ‘team’ leader, ala Ray Lewis is different. Somebody will surface for the Steelers, probably early in the season. Probably won’t be Ben or Troy or James.

  9. ravensdominate says: Aug 1, 2012 11:39 AM

    Poor man’s Ed Reed. flat out.

  10. thehaljordanproject says: Aug 1, 2012 12:05 PM

    Did u actually just give Tebow credit for that playoff win???? A blind man could see Demerius Thomas won them that game

  11. steeler999 says: Aug 1, 2012 12:25 PM

    Poor man’s Ed Reed. flat out.

    ===============

    They are two different types of player. Seems like Troy plays closer to the line of scrimmage. I would take Reed in coverage and Troy’s play closer to the line. Both are great players.

  12. bobzilla1001 says: Aug 1, 2012 12:54 PM

    To all those who believe Roethlisberger is responsible for the Steelers’ two Super Bowl wins in 2005 and 2008: He has a combined one TD pass in those two games, the same number of TD passes as Randle El.
    Even James Harrison’s spectacular, 100-yard interception return for a TD in Super Bowl 43 was caused by Polamalu. Kurt Warner was so busy trying to locate Polamalu, he never saw Harrison.
    Roethlisberger’s offense, meanwhile, scored just 13 points over that game’s first 58 minutes, against the absolute worst defensive team in Super Bowl history. The Cardinals gave up 49 TDs in 2008.
    In Pittsburgh, it’s been defense. Only in New Orleans, New England, Indianapolis and Green Bay has it been a “quarterback-driven” league.
    If Roethlisberger would like to put up some “elite” numbers for a change, I’ll gladly take them.

  13. eleventyeight says: Aug 1, 2012 1:10 PM

    ravensdominate says: Aug 1, 2012 11:39 AM

    Poor man’s Ed Reed. flat out.
    ———————————————————–

    Oh yeah- except that Reed isn’t good as a tackler in the open field, makes most of his INT’s as a result of wild QB throws caused by front-7 pressure, laterals INT returns so often that he started losing the ball and/or yardage because of it a couple years ago, is useless in stopping the run(shies away from power-runners 1-on-1), can’t beat blocks in the secondary and is hurt more often than not the last few years.

    Reed deserves credit as a fantastic cover-safety who has awesome hands and very good speed, but he can’t do as much as often or as well as Troy Polamalu.

    Really, they are apples & oranges, but since they’re both Safety’s in name they are compared constantly despite Reed being more on a CB/FS and Polamalu being more of a SS/CB/LB.

    As a Steelers fan I like what Troy does in our defense, but i would be too upset if we had Reed. Both are most likely future HOFers.

    But calling Polamalu a “poor man’s Ed Reed” is purely blind fanaticism.

  14. SteelyMcBeam6 says: Aug 1, 2012 1:17 PM

    That figures…a ravens fan doesn’t know the difference between a SS and FS. you can’t compare that which can’t be compared. Troy and Ed play completely different safety positions with completely different assignments and styles of play. Both are great at what they do

  15. jjackwagon says: Aug 1, 2012 1:35 PM

    “We’ve always had phantom leadership” Good then screw-ball Haley will fit right in with the rest of the phantom leaders.

  16. urworstnitemare58 says: Aug 1, 2012 1:37 PM

    I think Troys great when healthy, but he’s wrong when he says they don’t need leadership on that defense. Anyone who watched them last year could see that the defense needed someone like a Ray Lewis to get them fired up. That defense just sat on the bench and looked beaten before that Denver game was over. Brian Dawkins would be a great pickup as a team leader and the guy can still play. Until they get someone to step up and be a leader on that defense they are not going to get close to another SB and anyone who watches them and would say otherwise is kidding themself.

  17. Bubby Brister says: Aug 1, 2012 2:10 PM

    Bob… the Steelers D gave up over 400 yards of offense in SB 43. Not a great performance. The Steelers offense was inept that year, mostly due to a complete lack of a running game and probably the worst offensive line to ever win a Super Bowl. The only offensive weapon they had outside of Ben was Santonio. Ben worked with what he had and did what he had to, when he had to. He should have won MVP of that game.

    SB 40 was a bad game, but you seem to be forgetting the 3 playoff games leading up to it where he played absolutely lights out, completing almost 70% of his passes for 7 TDs and 1 INT.

    SB45 saw the defense get absolutely shredded once again, yet somehow the Steelers found themselves with a chance to win on the final drive of the game. The fact that they came back that far was a testament to Ben, again.

    The guy made the Pro Bowl in 2007, went for over 4000 yards in 2009 and 2011, and was on pace to have done it in 2011 had it not been for the suspension. Sounds like elite stats to me, and this is with a bad offensive line and a coordinator whose system was enormously flawed — both of which are things most of the “elite” QBs are blessed with. Just wait until you see what he does this year with the right pieces in place.

    Meanwhile, TP has never made a single memorable SB play, ever. But judging his entire career on that would be silly, considering all of the huge regular season and playoff games he’s had.

    Both players are the biggest single reason for the success over the past 8 years, and if you take away EITHER of them, the Steelers would be still waiting for the “one for the thumb”. If you think otherwise, you’re only fooling yourself.

  18. eleventyeight says: Aug 1, 2012 2:15 PM

    “…he’s wrong when he says they don’t need leadership on that defense. ”

    ———————————

    Troy never said they don’t need leadership. A shame you only read what you want to read. He said that they have a strong sense of tradition in Pittsburgh, and that sense brings with it an air of mystique that subtly plays on the work ethic of the players the team brings in.

    The Steelers don’t need anyone screaming or jumping around hollering and dancing; they know their jobs and what’s expected of them, and the consequences of not doing that job.

    Pittsburgh’s leaders lead by doing, they lead from the front. When ya do that nobody needs a loudmouth stirring up short-term emotional highs that wear off fast.

    And YOU don’t sound like you’ve seen many Steelers games if you think otherwise.

  19. urworstnitemare58 says: Aug 1, 2012 3:53 PM

    I’ve watched more Steelers games than you ever dreamt of. I’m a die hard fan. You tell me who you have seen since Joey Porter left there to get that defense up when they get down.? I have not witnessed it.
    @Bubby Brister, you are right on with your post and Ben and that offense outscored Greenbays offense in that game, but Greenbays defense stepped up when they needed a play and got it done. If you watch replays of that on the NFL channel you will see one of Pittsburgs greatest leaders in Greene an assistant coach on GB defense get that Packers defense fired up to get the job done.

  20. bobzilla1001 says: Aug 1, 2012 4:20 PM

    Bubby: The Steelers defense’s assignment in SB 43 was to contain a high-powered offense, one that had carried its team to the Super Bowl. The Steelers offense’s assignment was to score against the worst defensive teams in Super Bowl history.
    Which unit had the tougher assignment?
    In Super Bowl 45, Roethlisberger threw a pick six (7) in a six-point loss. Due the math.
    It should also be noted that in the Steelers’ past two postseason losses, Roethlisberger was on the field with a chance to win at the end. He failed miserably both times.
    Last season, the Steelers compiled a 12-4 record with a defense that ranked No. 1 in scoring and with a scoring offense that ranked 22nd.
    Please wake me when Roethlisberger actually performes to the level of his $100 million contract.
    Maybe Todd Haley can work some magic. Bruce Arians sure as hell didn’t.

  21. laserw says: Aug 1, 2012 7:34 PM

    “The Hair” needs to shut up. No one runs more and does less on the field than him. He may make a number of plays but he misses badly on twice as many as he makes. This jerk is one of the most overrated players in NFL history. If he didn’t have that hair, he’d have been forgotten because he is that mediocre.

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