Pete Prisco Calls Troy Polamalu NFL’s Most Overrated Player

Normally I wouldn’t care about columns like this, but because there’s absolutely nothing else NFL-related going on right now (hell, we’re analyzing arena football around here) it caught my attention. Pete Prisco, NFL writer for CBS, penned a column this week talking about overrated and underrated players across the league and determined that Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is the most overrated player in the NFL.

In his words: Good, but not great.

Hey, the lockout is tough on everybody, and even national football writers need to figure out ways to get people to read something. What better way to bring in hoards of angry readers than to call the most popular player on one of the most popular teams in the league overrated, and use a two-or-three game sample size to back up your argument, completely ignoring the rest of the season or full body of work?

His argument is built around Polamalu’s showing in the postseason, particularly the Super Bowl, and Prisco’s belief that the player tied for the second most interceptions in the league is a risk-taker (which is absolutely true) and poor in coverage (which I’m not buying at all).

Dave Bryan at Steelers Depot broke down some of the numbers, via Pro Football Focus, regarding Polamalu’s coverage ability over the past three years, and even debunked one of Prisco’s claims that quarterbacks like Tom Brady can take advantage of his aggressiveness (Polamalu wasn’t even listed as being targeted by a pass against the Patriots this season).

When addressing the possibility that an injury had negative effect on his play in those games he wrote: “They say Polamalu had a groin issue in the playoffs, but if you’re on the field, you’re healthy enough to take the heat. And haven’t injuries been an issue for him the past five seasons? He has played 16 games only once in five years. That has to mean something in the rating game, doesn’t it?”

Does being injury prone mean you’re overrated? These are two very different things as far I’m concerned. The performance of the Steelers defense, and the team in general, when Polamalu is on the field (or even on the field at less than 100 percent) is night and day compared to when he’s not. And isn’t that the measure of a player’s greatness? How good the team’s performance is when he is on the field compared to when he is off the field?

There’s no denying Polamalu misses his share of games, but go back to the random fact I pointed out on a Podcast during the season: Polamalu has started at least 14 games four times in his career, with the Steelers producing the following results…

  • went 15-1 and lost in AFC Championship game (2004)
  • Won a Super Bowl (2005)
  • Won  a Super Bowl (2008)
  • Lost a Super Bowl (2010)

Polamalu wasn’t the player we’re used to seeing in the playoffs and he does miss games. This is also nothing new. There’s going to come a time, probably sooner rather than later, that his career will decline, and decline severely. He is, after all, going to be 30 this season and plays the game with a reckless abandon, but throughout the season when the Steelers needed somebody on defense to make a big play, Polamalu was typically the guy making it.

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  • Jim

    Until this article I never heard of Prisco, so why would his opinion matter on anything.

    • Jfishel

      Prisco is one of the main writers for CBS sports.  If you follow his columns, they’re pretty often inflammatory in some way to increase readership.  In fact, that’s his main tactic.  If you look at the comments, people seem to only read him because they dislike him.

      • Mike Frazer

        And he has a tendency to go after the best teams, too — which means he talks an awful lot about our Steelers.

        I joined in the comment war over there.  A guy tried to rebutt me saying his “79 tackles and 7 INTs” showed that “the stats just aren’t there.”  Ummm…Tied for second in the league in INTs while missing time?  I realize that Ed Reed missed time too and he led (by one), but Reed also drops back in coverage *all the time* as a FS while Troy plays mostly along the line of scrimmage as a SS.  Comparing the two based on stats is like comparing a RB and a WR based on stats — two totally different positions, even though they play on the same side of the ball.

        Bottom line: there is no one else *in the NFL* that coaches feel they need to account for on *every single play*.  And we have another guy who is rapidly getting there in Lawrence “The Law” Timmons.

  • ROb D

    This is one of the oldest tricks in the game amongst writers looking to increase readership. My sister dated a local writer for our hometown newspaper who was a terrific guy but he was ruthless when it came to getting eyeballs to his column.

    When things were slow in the summer, he’d pull out the most outrageous “going against widely accepted wisdom” statement and try to back it up with flimsy evidence. It worked every was suddenly “controversial” and “outspoken”… a bit of a radical and thus cool. His boss would see how many phone calls this generated and when raise time came he was generally in line for one.

    Then the public goes back to sleep and repeat the process when you need a boost. Pete Prisco..I salute you. Although I think you are a tad overrated myself. How about a top 10 list of most overrated columnists? Especially those who resort to top 10 lists to aggravate people and get some attention?

  • Bill Pintsak

    I agree with you Adam…..

    Here’s my main point of contention with Prisco on this article minus the obvious – he states that the FACT that the Steelers win more consistently with Troy versus without Troy as ‘twisting stats’….Huh?  I would think that is pretty black and white (or gold in this case)

  • Randy Steele

    Hard to take anyone seriously whose name sounds a lot like Peter Piss-co…

  • t1mmy10

    i feel it’s some form of a breach of journalism ethics to write obviously BS stuff (like this idiot’s article) just to gain reader attention. if you know something isn’t true and you try to pass it off as though it is just to get some readers attention, it sounds more like you’re writing for a tabloid than writing real sports analysis…it also seems like he isn’t a good enough sports analyst to get ppl to read his pieces that don’t scream “look at me.”

    i’m not even going to bother to read his article so he can’t claim me as a another hit.

  • Jfishel

    If I remember right, used CBS sports writers a while back, say 2-4 years ago.  Prisco hasn’t changed since then.  He does the CBS power rankings too, and says similarly inflammatory things.  His picks are no better than 50/50 and sometimes worse.  I wouldn’t take anything he says seriously… but, if all they want is readership and an active comment forum, he’s gold.  That’s the only reason he’s still employed, I’d guess.  

  • none ya

    you sir are a stupid moron