Healthy Polamalu ready for 2013
Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu is healthy and ready for 2013.
PITTSBURGH – They didn’t play mistake-free football in the short amount of time they were in the game, but Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark were all smiles after Pittsburgh’s preseason 18-13 loss against New York Saturday night.
The Steelers’ Pro Bowl safety duo appeared in just six games together in 2012, and even in those games, Polamalu was at less than 100 percent as he struggled through a tear in his calf muscle that limited his mobility.
Polamalu spent the offseason using a new workout regime to strengthen his calf muscle, which has troubled him since he suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury in 2010. The 32-year-old has been given the day off just twice in training camp for veteran’s days of rest and is feeling as good as he has in several seasons.
“I saw him running around, blitzing, making plays and feeling good about it,” said Clark. “That’s what it’s about. That’s what we’re trying to get done this preseason, to play together and get that chemistry back that we’ve always had.”
Not that there wasn’t a hiccup or two. Clark missed a third-down tackle on Rueben Randle, who then also made Polamalu miss in the open field.
Then, both got sucked out of position on a 57-yard touchdown catch by Victor Cruz when they should have provided deep help to corner William Gay.
“It was Troy and Ryan Clark, not being Troy and Ryan Clark,” said Clark. “We’ve got a third down there and I over-disguised and got myself out of position and missed a tackle. Then Troy was trying to do some things there, and (the Giants) made a play because of things we weren’t doing. Those things that can be fixed. We had the conversation on the sideline; when it’s 25 and 43 messing up in the preseason, I can deal with that. I know they’ll get it fixed.”
The good news for the Steelers is Polamalu and Clark will have the opportunity to fix those things, something they weren’t able to do in 2012 when Polamalu rarely practiced.
“It felt good to go into a game healthy, to just have your legs under you,” said Polamalu, the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. “It’s frustrating when you’re limited in any capacity. Getting out there, my body felt good. I’ve just got to get mentally, my mind caught up with the football.”
Polamalu and Clark have become inseparable friends. They hang out together on the sidelines. Their families spend time together in the offseason. They have developed a bond that resonates beyond the football field.
That’s what made the past couple of seasons so hard for Clark.
Even though Polamalu played all 16 games in 2011, he knew his friend was not playing at 100 percent.
“It’s tough to watch him go through it,” Clark said. “It’s tough to deal with football and life without him. When you know the person, you know how hard he works, how humble he is, it makes you sad. But when you know how much he understands life and how much of his life is bigger than football, you know he’ll be alright. That’s why he’s back now.”
Clark, 33, is heading into the final year of his contract with the Steelers. Pittsburgh is expected to make a pitch before the season begins to keep their starting free safety since 2006 around for at least one or two more seasons.
The situation with Polamalu is a little more tricky.
Though he’s an icon and one of the NFL’s best at his position, Polamalu is scheduled to count just over $10 million against the team’s salary cap in 2014, the final year of his contract.
Clark feels that the dedication Polamalu showed in the offseason to completely change his workouts, tailoring them to strengthen his calf, show his dedication to the Steelers and his love of football and desire to at least play out the remainder of his contract.
“He does (love football). That’s not a question,” Clark said. “That doesn’t need to be said about Troy. The thing that needs to be said is that he’s back now. He’s healthy now. He showed how much he loves it by how hard he worked this offseason.
“It’s about how he can help us, what he can do to be the best he can be to help us be the best Pittsburgh Steelers defense. That’s what he focuses on. That’s what is important to him.”
Defensive end Al Woods paced Pittsburgh’s defense with nine tackles, two of which were for a loss, and a sack against the Giants. … Head coach Mike Tomlin said following Saturday night’s game that tight end Matt Spaeth had surgery to repair a Lis Franc injury in his foot. … The Steelers will return to practice today at Saint Vincent College. The 3 p.m. session is open to the public.