Steelers Notebook: Polamalu opens old subject to run, not allow big plays
Safety Will Allen, right, breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Tyler Grisham Tuesday at Saint Vincent College.
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This is not a new subject for safety Troy Polamalu, this business of being able to run the ball better to make the defense more effective.
He first talked about it before the 2007 season when Bruce Arians replaced Ken Whisenhunt as the offensive coordinator. And he was back on the subject again at training camp because of the way the defense struggled last season, blowing fourth-quarter leads and allowing a boatload of big plays -- something they did not do in 2008.
Polamalu said he thinks the Steelers can return to that level if they can reduce the number of touchdown returns (eight) they surrendered last season, four of which came on kick returns. And, of course, run the ball better.
• Game: Steelers vs. Detroit Lions in the preseason opener, Heinz Field.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
• TV: KDKA.
• Left: Mike Wallace hauls in a touchdown pass during seven-on-seven drills Tuesday.
"What I've learned here is, it's a complete team game," Polamalu said. "You can't give up big plays and pass the ball and not have any time of possession. You can't give up big plays on special teams and big plays on defense and turnovers on offense. We built our identity on a team game, and that's all three parts working together.
"We're not like New England or [Indianapolis] where Peyton Manning can win the game by himself or Tom Brady can win the game by himself. That's not the way we were built. That's not the way we won two Super Bowls -- six Super Bowls, mind you."
The Steelers have said they will try to run the ball more effectively this season and have even added a fullback on the roster.
"I definitely think we're probably putting more emphasis on running the ball," Polamalu said. "If we do that, that's a positive step."
Lost in Dick LeBeau's enshrinement speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame were the first words he uttered when he stepped to the microphone.
Most of the people couldn't hear what he said because LeBeau looked to the sky when he arrived at the podium and said, "Beulah, we're here."
The reference was to his mother, Beulah, who was 96 when she died in September 2009. No matter where he was, LeBeau always called his mom at 11 p.m. every night to talk to her. Some of LeBeau's friends and family members in Canton, Ohio, wore a button of his mom holding LeBeau's No. 44 Detroit Lions jersey.
"I'd like to thank my mom and dad for creating the family environment that let an ornery young guy grow up and maybe someday allowed him to have a weekend happen for him like is happening right now," LeBeau said in his opening remarks.
Stefan Logan set single-season team records with 55 kick returns and 1,466 kick-return yards in 2009, and also ranked second in the AFC with a 26.7 kick return average.
But he didn't have a kick return for touchdown and he rarely changed the flow of the game with one of his returns. Of the six NFL players who had 50 or more kick returns in 2009, three had at least one for touchdown.
Logan is hoping to change that this year, if he gets the chance.
"If you're going to be a great returner, you got to have positive yards, a great average and you got to have some touchdowns behind you," Logan said. "I'm not saying you got to have five or six kickoff returns each year, but if you have a great average and you return two or three [for touchdowns] that year, that makes you a good returner."
Logan's spot on the 53-man roster might not be guaranteed, despite his productive rookie season.
The Steelers probably will take a look at their two rookie receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, as kick and punt returners when the preseason begins Saturday night against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field. Cornerback Joe Burnett also will get a shot at returning kicks.
If any of them proves to be a productive returner, they could bump Logan out of a roster spot because he really doesn't play another position.
"You don't ever get comfortable," Logan said. "You stay on edge because that's what keeps me going. I stay on edge every time. When I come out here, some guys say I come out here and play like it's my last play. I come out here, I play hard, I fight. I'm getting out here and showing what I can do each and every day."
Cornerback Joe Burnett sustained what coach Mike Tomlin termed a "rib-related" injury trying to dive for an interception and did not return to practice. Tomlin said he did not know if the injury is muscular or structural. ... The heat index on the practice field was 102, making it the hottest day of camp to date. When he was asked about keeping the players hydrated, Tomlin said, "We do not run an operation that creates water scarcity." ... The Steelers will hold only two more practices this week that are open to the public -- 3 p.m. today and Thursday. After that, they will not hold an open practice again until 3 p.m. Monday.
First Published August 11, 2010 12:00 am