Film Room: Troy Polamalu was a game changer

April 10th marked the two-year retire-versy of legendary Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Drafted in the first-round of the 2003 NFL draft, Polamalu redefined the safety position with his incredible, one of a kind, play-making abilities.

Even though the Tasmanian Devil decided to hang up the cleats, his plays will forever be remembered in the hearts of Steelers fans all over. Today, we are going to showcase his top five career plays and just give you some nostalgic feeling on this fine day.

#5. Strip Sack vs. Ravens (2010)

With the game on the line down 6-10 and three minutes left, the Ravens were driving into Steelers territory. All they had to do was run the football to get run some of the time off of the clock.

Instead, defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau dialed up a blitz off the edge and Polamalu was the lucky athlete to make a game-changing play at just the right time.

As soon as the ball was snapped, Polamalu hit it out of Flacco’s hand and fellow teammate Lamarr Woodley picked the football up and returned it to the nine-yard line. The rest was history as this regular season game was sealed with an excellent receiving touchdown by running back Isaac Redman. It was another low scoring game where the Steelers had to rely on their defense with minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. (Man, do I miss those days.)

#4. One-handed Interception vs. Titans (2009)

This play does not need an in-depth analysis other than just stating the obvious and that is Polamalu was a freak of nature in his prime.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins heaved the football to wide receiver Kenny Britt down the field and Polamalu decided that a one-handed interception would be best in that scenario – and it worked out quite well. Add this play to his career highlight reel and remind fans that he was one of the best to ever play the position.

#3. Good Ol’ Diving Over the Line (AFC Championship Game 2008)

The AFC Championship game in 2008 against the Baltimore Ravens was one of the most intense battles in the history of the NFL. Hard hits, interceptions, multiple sacks and overall physicality in all phases of the game were what the old school battles were like back in the day when these two teams faced off.

Sometimes I miss the old defensive games where it was a low scoring affair and the offense wasn’t as successful as the defense was.

The above play showcases one of the unique talents that safety Troy Polamalu had, and that was his ability to time the snap count and to leap over the line of scrimmage. On fourth down and one yard to go with the score 6-0 Pittsburgh, and the Ravens driving into Steelers territory, it was the football IQ and athleticism of Polamalu to make a critical stop.

#2. Diving One-handed Interception vs. Chargers (2008)

Before there were any Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed catches, there were Polamalu one-handers that were absolutely unbelievable. Back in 2008 social media wasn’t around like it is today. When Giants wide receiver Beckham Jr. made his one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys on primetime television in 2014, the whole world went crazy and many still believe it was the best catch in the history of the NFL.

Well, I am here to tell you that yes, it was a fantastic play, but it can be argued with the above clip.

Against the San Diego Chargers in a week 11 matchup in 2008, the young safety dove for the football after it was tipped up in the air after Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson couldn’t reel the pass in. If you take a minute and check out the replay for this play, you will see that the ball never hit the ground but rather Polamalu gets his fingertips under the football to scoop it up and return it several yards before falling in the snow.

Is it better than Odell’s catch in 2014? That can be argued but I am here to tell you that this was one heck of a play and will forever be in my memory.

#1. Game-sealing Interception in AFC Championship Game (2008)

“Polamalu takes it home, Super Bowl 43, Pittsburgh might be bound for that thanks to number 43.” – Jim Nantz

Those words are forever engraved in my heart.

Polamalu had a knack for the football; it’s how he was so successful all of these years. An aspect of his game that was absolutely stellar was his ability to read the eyes of quarterbacks. With a Super Bowl on the line and less than five minutes remaining in the AFC Championship game, it was on the Steelers’ number one defense to step up and make a play.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was in shotgun formation on 3rd down and 13. Baltimore was only down two points (14-16), attempting to take as much time off the clock as possible. Getting this first down would have given the Ravens an excellent opportunity to win the football game. Except one player had a different storybook ending in mind: that was Troy Polamalu.

The pass was intended right to wide receiver Derrick Mason. The pressure from James Harrison off the edge forced Flacco to get rid of the football in a hurry. Polamalu read the rookie quarterback’s eyes and intercepted the football, returning it 40-yards for the touchdown.


What a legendary player Polamalu was. He revolutionized the safety position along with Ed Reed from the Ravens. It is still weird to not see #43 out on the football field every Sunday.

I think I speak from all of us here at Steel City Underground and the entire Steelers Nation when I say, we miss you and hope that retirement is treating Troy well.

5 responses to “Film Room: Troy Polamalu was a game changer”

  1. VinHuddle says:

    Hey man, nice article and videos of Troy P. Those highlights got the blood going early this a.m. lol. Of the newer school Steelers ( im a kid of the late 70s teams) he’s probably my favorite plyr from this era.

  2. Troy Polamalu will always be an iconic figure in the history of the NFL and Steelers. He played the game with the same type of heart as Gale Sayers – gritty, athletically gifted, mentally tough – and was a consummate gentleman off the field. Nice article and film work, Nate.

Leave a Reply

Related Articles