Prior to having off on Monday, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu missed the previous two practices with what head coach Mike Tomlin called a “contusion to the birth certificate.” While it is unknown if that contusion has healed enough for him to resume practice when the team returns to the practice fields later today, it appears as though the veteran safety knows he needs to not overdue things this year in training camp.
“I absolutely have to pace myself in camp,” Polamalu told Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Polamalu also told Paulk that camp is going good for him so far, and as a result he knows what areas he needs to improve in prior to the season-opener against the Tennessee Titans. He also added that he feels “great” right now.
Because of a lack of depth this year, the Steelers defense will not be “great” if Polamalu and the rest of the starters don\’t stay on the field this season. Will Allen, who played well in Polamalu\’s absence last year when he was sidelined with a calf injury, was not re-signed during the offseason and while the team did draft Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas to ultimately take over Polamalu\’s position down the road, he shouldn\’t be expected to step right into his mentor\’s shoes as effectively as Allen did in just his first season.
Over the course of the last four seasons, Polamalu has missed 22 regular games, and the Steelers went 11-11 without him. That\’s not “great.” Conversely, in the other 42 regular season games that Polamalu was able to play in over those same four years, the team posted a 30-12 record.
2013 is a big year for Polamalu, as he is scheduled to count $10.8875 million against the salary cap in 2014, the final year of his contract. If he is unable to play in at least 14 regular season games in 2013, the Steelers might have no choice but to release him next offseason. That would most certainly not be a “great” day for Steeler Nation and the city of Pittsburgh.
Polamalu worked out during the offseason once again with his long-time trainer Marv Maronivich and a new physical therapist in hopes of finally putting the calf problem that has bothered him for the last four seasons behind him for good. Upon arriving for the Steelers first OTA practice back in May, the all-everything safety talked about how he had to break down the scar tissue as part of his training.
“When you have an injury that\’s bothered you for the last four years, there gets to be just so much scar tissue in there,” said Polamalu back in May. “If you don\’t attack the problem scar tissue, then your just going to continue to have problems. So this year I really focused on that and found a great physical therapist and obviously continue to keep working with my trainer. So everything has evolved there and evolved nicely.”
While Polamalu might not be considered a player in 2013 that would qualify for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, he is a player who defensive end Brett Keisel thinks will have a comeback year for the Steelers.
“If I was a betting man, I\’d bet on 43 this year,” Keisel said recently, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Come January, we will see whether or not that was a “great” bet or not as the Steelers need Polamalu to be “great” once again in 2013 if they are going to make a run at a seventh Lombardi Trophy.