Originally posted on Bleed Black & Gold  |  Last updated 11/14/11

Is Troy Polamalu becoming a Box Safety?  This is a good question. Polamalu has always been considered a triple threat safety.  He tackles like a linebacker.  Is fast like a cornerback and covers like a safety.  He is a huge playmaker and is what makes the Steelers defense go.

This play right here where you see Polamalu score a touchdown versus the Bengals may have been what has put this idea out there.  Polamalu intercepted a pass from his former USC roommate Carson Palmer and took it to the house.  On the play Polamalu dove for the end zone.  When he did he got up gingerly.  It was later found that it was an achilles injury.  These can finish off a career.  Troy played the rest of the season with the injury.

This injury can take over a year to heal if it is minor.  If you just tweak it you won’t be the same for 6 months.  Troy is still one month away from being a year out from the injury.  It occurred on December 12 last season.  He has come back and played well but is not the same in coverage as he was last season.  I am hoping he is just still not 100% and will show us all what he has come next season.  He will be a year and a half out from the injury and hopefully will get all his speed back.

The question has to asked though is it the injury or is it just ability?  Troy did turn 30 this year.  He is in his ninth season and plays with a reckless abandon.  His body has taken a toll over the years.  The way he plays is balls out all game long.  He hits people in ways that I think he may not get up every time he does it.  It is that kind of play that can slow a body down.

There are two reasons to think that Polamalu could be becoming a box safety.  One is that Polamalu is still as instinctual as you can get at safety and the other is that his coverage ability has diminished greatly.  Both of which are obvious to see.  That is why I hope the latter is still injury related.

You can not question Polamalu’s smarts.  The guy can diagnose a play like the best of them.  His football instincts are out of this world.  He times the snap count on anyone he faces which gives him an advantage in the running game.  This is evident in the fact that he is on pace for 99 tackles this season.  That would be a career high for Polamalu.  He is in the backfield all the time making plays for the Steelers defense when they need him to.  He gets up close to the line of scrimmage and diagnoses the play.  He then breaks in at an angle where he is almost unblockable and makes the play.  He has saved the Steelers run defense many times this year when they could not make a stop.

But then there is the passing game.  Polamalu is no where near what he has been throughout his career.  He has no interceptions this season after having 7 in 14 games last year.  Teams are not shying away from Polamalu either if that is what you are thinking of his decreased stats.  This is not a Revis Island situation.  Teams are actually attacking Polamalu.  Quarterbacks have never done that in the past.  They shied away from him.

It stared in the first game this season.  The Ravens went right at Polamalu with their tight ends.  They were just running away from Polamalu, something that would not have happened in the past.  If you had a tight end Polamalu would shut them down.  He has beat up Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez on numerous times over his career.  Those are the two top tight ends of this decade.  Polamalu would be assigned to them and take them away from those offenses.  Now teams are sending their tight ends right at Polamalu and using him to their advantage when he is in man coverage.

The other thing to notice is Polamalu’s play on the ball.  This weekend it was highly evident.  In years past that duck that Andy Dalton threw up to A.J. Green for a touchdown would have never gotten to the receiver.  Most likely it would have been headed the other direction for the Steelers.  Polamalu did not even make an attempt at it.  He was in position and just froze and watched it land in Green’s hands.  Never have I ever seen that out of Polamalu.  I was in shock.  When it came down I said this is going the other way and then Green caught it.  I just shook my head in disbelief.

Looking at these things makes you wander.  Is Troy Polamalu becoming a stop the run only safety.  Whether it is by injury or by age it looks like it is a possibility.  He is a playmaker all day long in the run game.  It seems to have disappeared in the pass game.  That is not something the Steelers want to see.  Especially with Ryan Clark as the last line of defense behind him.

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