Polamalu believes injury issues are behind him

May 22, 2013
Troy Polamalu

PITTSBURGH – The sweat continually dripped off Troy Polamalu’s forehead and into his eyes on this bright, sunny day.

But Polamalu didn’t seem to mind much, other than to brush it away.

Too often in the past year, Polamalu didn’t have the opportunity to work up a good sweat with his teammates. The Steelers’ All-Pro strong safety was limited to just seven games last season by a torn muscle in his calf. Even when healthy enough to play, he didn’t always participate in practice.

“I’ve done quite a bit of different things this offseason,” Polamalu said Tuesday as the Steelers held their first team offseason training activity at their practice facility on the South Side. “There are a lot of different rehabs and training. When you have an injury that has bothered you for four years, there gets to be so much scar tissue. If you don’t attack the problem of scar tissue, then you are going to continue to have problems.

“This year, I have been really focused on that, and I’ve found a great physical therapist. I’ve continued to work out with my trainer. Everything has evolved and evolved nicely.”

The problems with Polamalu’s calf have plagued him since he suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury during the 2010 season that forced him to miss two games. Polamalu was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year despite missing those two games, and the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl. But Polamalu was clearly not completely healthy after sitting out two of the final three weeks of the regular season.

He came back and played 16 regular season games in 2011 but continued to have issues with his calf, something that troubled him into last season.

The 32-year-old seven-time Pro Bowl player believes he has isolated the issue and is looking forward to this season. It’s one of the reasons he feels that his injury-plagued 2012 season was “avoidable.”

“Not to get too deep into muscular biomechanics, but you can break down scar tissue,” Polamalu said. “The problem is that your body has to learn how to adapt and play with broken scar tissue. These are things that I’ve learned. Hopefully, all of this will make these problems obsolete.”

The Steelers certainly hope so, too.

Without its most dynamic player in the secondary, Pittsburgh’s defense struggled at times last season as Ryan Mundy and Will Allen attempted to replace Polamalu.

Mundy and Allen left the Steelers as free agents in the offseason, leaving first-year player Robert Golden and fourth-round draft pick Shamarko Thomas as the top backups behind Polamalu and free safety Ryan Clark.

Coming off an 8-8 season in which the Steelers failed to make the playoffs and coupled with the losses of cornerback Keenan Lewis, linebacker James Harrison and nose tackle Casey Hampton, the Steelers have other issues to worry about on defense.

On offense, the Steelers look different with wide receiver Mike Wallace, offensive linemen Max Starks and Willie Colon and running back Rashard Mendenhall gone.

“It’s definitely different because we’ve got a lot of new guys and a lot of new faces,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “I know the guys that are here are ready to rock and roll, and the young guys are ready to contribute.”

Like a tune you’ve heard a thousand times but never get tired of, Polamalu is finally ready to rock and roll.

“The injuries are most definitely a thing of the past,” Polamalu said. “There is a lot to learn every year. I’m going into my 11th year. I am very fortunate to have had the experiences that I’ve had.”

Odds and end zones

The Steelers have hired former special teams star Chidi Iwuoma as their BLESTO scout. … Tuesday was the first of three weeks of voluntary team workouts. … Rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton, a third-round draft pick, was not in attendance per NFL rules. Wheaton is not permitted to attend until his class graduates at Oregon State.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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