Steelers Throwback Thursdays: Troy Polamalu wins Defensive Player of the Year

Before the NFL officially gears up for the 2022-23 season, Steel City Underground will be taking fans back in time to feature events, special moments, and historical times in the world of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. Join us as we revisit these moments in our “Throwback Thursdays”.

Congratulations to T.J. Watt for winning Defensive Player of the Year! He is the first Steelers player to win the AP’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year since Troy Polamalu won in 2010.

That season, Troy recorded seven interceptions with one touchdown, a total of 101 yards returned off of interceptions, a forced fumble and fumble recovery, 63 tackles, and six tackles for loss on one sack. Those statistics might not be that impressive when only looking at the numbers, but Polamalu had a bigger impact on the Steelers’ season that year, despite missing a couple of games, than just statistics.

In the 2010-11 season opener, Polamalu made a game-saving interception of a Matt Ryan pass. He ramped up his performance throughout the rest of the season. Against the Cleveland Browns, Polamalu recorded seven combined tackles (a season high). He deflected two passes and grabbed an interception on a pass attempt by Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals) and returned it for a 45-yard touchdown.

In addition, the Steelers were not the same team in the two games Troy did not play in due to an ankle injury. They weren’t able to create or force turnovers at the rate just one special player was. The Steelers did finish first in the AFC North (12-4 record).

Following the regular season, Pittsburgh defeated the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets before facing the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV. Polamalu, in his third career Super Bowl appearance, recorded three solo tackles.

Polamalu was the second Pittsburgh Steeler to win the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award; his teammate, James Harrison, won the award two years prior. 11 years later, the award comes back to Pittsburgh with T.J. Watt finally getting the recognition he deserved.


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