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.