Troy Polamalu: Player in transition

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The defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season gets a boost by adding a four-time Pro Bowl veteran in the prime of his career this season.

His name is Troy Polamalu.

That was not Polamalu playing strong safety for the Steelers last season. It was perhaps half of him. He played through broken and/or bruised ribs, a torn PCL in a knee and a strained oblique muscle. He missed five full games and wasn't the same in many others.

Polamalu played well enough to make his fourth Pro Bowl, but he had to bow out because of his knee and had surgery after the season. For the first time in his career, Polamalu had neither a sack nor an interception.

"I think there were a lot of plays I should have made, a lot of opportunities that I had to make plays that I didn't," Polamalu said.

The Steelers need him to return to the Polamalu of old, the healthy one, in order to have a more dynamic defense this season.

"He's one of our best players ... He's a valuable guy,'' defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said.

There was some concern when Polamalu missed all of training camp and the first three preseason games with a hamstring injury. However, he's fully healed and ready to go for Sunday's opener against Houston.



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