Pittsburgh's Playmaker: Why Troy Polamalu Is the Most Important Defensive Player In The NFL

By Jeff Falconio

For the Packers to win Super Bowl XLV, they must make sure they account for Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu on every play.  He's that dangerous.  There have been comparisons made between Polamalu and Charles Woodson, another player who needs to be accounted for on every play.


Polamalu is excellent in coverage, his seven interceptions in 2010 are a testament to that fact.  He also tends to be wherever the ball carrier is.  Polamalu registered 63 combined tackles in 14 games this year and 73 tackles in a full season in 2008.  He also makes big plays at big times, including forcing a fumble late in Pittsburgh's 13-10 regular season win over Baltimore.


But Polamalu's biggest contribution to Pittsburgh might be his very presence.  There's no doubt that when Polamalu doesn't play the Steelers look like an ordinary team.  Over the last three seasons Polamalu has played in 35 games and the Steelers were 27-8 in those games.  When he's out the Steelers were a paltry 6-7.


So one of the keys for the Packers on Sunday will be keeping the ball away from Polamalu.  Easier said than done but it should be clear that Pittsburgh's weakest spot on defense is at cornerback.  To generate drives, Aaron Rodgers should be looking to attack the outside edges of Pittsburgh's defense as opposed to over the middle. 


As I've said throughout the postseason, give Rodgers time to throw and he should beat any secondary in the NFL.  If the pass protection is there Rodgers should have no problem going after Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden.  In this case protecting Rodgers also means making sure Polamalu doesn't crowd the line of scrimmage.  If the protection is solid that should translate into a big day for Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.  To make the Steelers look ordinary, the Packers must find a way to eliminate Polamalu, and that means keeping tabs on him on every play and keeping him away from the football as long as possible.