Q: What do you credit Troy Palamalu's turnaround in play? Last year you noted several times he looked totally lost and had yet to make a big play. This year he is a Pro Bowl candidate.
Bill Sota of Glenview, Ill.
BOUCHETTE: They say the biggest improvement in players happens between their first and second seasons as they gain knowledge of the pro game and the offense or defense they are in. Polamalu will tell you himself that he wasn't comfortable with the defense last year and when a player does not know the system well enough, he's not confident enough to let loose and play with his natural instincts. It happens all the time. Offensive tackle Leon Searcy did not play his rookie season with the Steelers, then became a starter in his second year and a good one at that. You could see it later in the 2003 season with Polamalu, he was around the ball more and his speed and quickness were more evident. Also, he's playing more. He did not start last season, playing only in the nickel and dime defenses. He's getting more opportunities now.