By Mike Bires
Those specks of gray starting to show in Troy Polamalu’s long flowing hair and beard prove that he’s getting up in age, at least by NFL standards. The Steelers’ star strong safety is 31 and entering his 10th pro season. Still, the Steelers don’t expect any drop-off in Polamalu’s performance. They expect him to once again play Pro Bowl-caliber football, just as he has seven times over the past nine years. Times pro football writer Mike Bires spoke to Polamalu about his approach to a new season as well as other topics. Following are portions of the interview:
Q: You’ve had some injuries over the years, but you did start every game last season. So how do you feel right now?
A: “I feel great standing here today. How the season ends up, as I’ve always said before, we will see when the season is over. But right now, I feel good, thank God. I feel fine. I feel very comfortable at this moment.”
Q: Aaron Smith, James Farrior and William Gay — three starters from last year – are no longer with the team. So how do you feel about the defense the Steelers will field this year?
A: “I think it’s going to be an exciting season. It’s always interesting to me to see the makeup of every team and to see how successful we’ll be. There are personal challenges as well as team challenges. It’s kind of exciting to find out what you’re made up of, individually and collectively as a team. Whether I like what I see from our defense right now doesn’t matter. What matters is how we perform and execute. There have always been a lot of great teams on paper. So we’ll see how things pan out as time progresses.”
Q: Do you have any personal goals? Do you have a set number of interceptions you want to pickoff?
Q: Do you ever have personal goals?
A: “No. Not too much. I just kind of go with the flow and see what happens.”
Q: Can I put words in your mouth and say that you just want to be the best player you can be and do whatever it takes to help this team win?
Q: During the off-season while talking on “The Dan Patrick Show,” you admitted that you weren’t always truthful to the Steelers’ medical staff regarding the multiple concussions you’ve had over the years. Considering the NFL’s emphasis on players safety, especially when it comes to concussions, do you think the league and team doctors will look more closely at you because you’ve had so many concussions?
A: “I do whatever I can to stay out of the public’s eye. I’d rather not comment on these things anymore.”
Q: Speaking of the public eye, you have been appearing on Head & Shoulders shampoo commercial for several years now. What’s that experience been like?
A: “Like I’ve said many times before, I don’t pinch myself when I play football. That’s what I do. When I do pinch myself is when I’m on a commercial shoot and there are 50 people behind a camera, and you’re the only one acting. It’s like ‘Whoa!’ Like the last one, I’m sitting at a piano at the Rose Bowl in the middle of the night at 1 or 2 in the morning. It’s been a lot of fun, that’s for sure. It’s a great partnership and I feel fortunate to be with them.”
Q: Many Steelers are involved in worthwhile community projects, and you certainly are one of them with the work you do for the homeless of Pittsburgh as well as for military veterans. How did you became involved in those causes?
A: “I give a lot of credit to my wife for that. She has such a big, kind heart. Both of our families have had first-hand experience in the military. Three of our grandfathers were veterans. I’ve had cousins who’ve died at war. Growing up in the inner city (in Southern California), you see a lot of homeless people. It’s just something that’s dear to our hearts. But there are so many guys on our team who support different causes. I just happen to be one of them.”
Q: Any thoughts on opening the season in Denver against the team that knocked off the Steelers in the playoffs last season.
A: “No. It’s a different season and a different team. To be honest, it doesn’t matter where we play. No matter where we play, we’re excited about the challenge.”
Q: But this year, you’re not facing Tim Tebow and the Broncos. You’re facing Peyton Manning in his first game in Denver. Doesn’t that pump up the adrenaline a few notches?
A: “Yes, it’s definitely a different level of preparation. You’re talking about one of the greatest quarterbacks and smartest quarterbacks to ever play the game.”