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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Troy Polamalu Hurt Steelers in Pass Coverage During Super Bowl Loss

Count me as someone who felt Troy Polamalu was undeserving as Defensive Player of the Year. While he had a wonderful season, I felt the media weighed some of his notable, big plays too heavily, without realizing the shortcomings in the rest of his game. Though Polamalu’s great at making jarring hits and causing turnovers with his balls-out passion, he’s also suspect in pass defense because of his aggression.

Take for instance what happened in the Super Bowl. Polamalu was responsible for allowing the Packers their two biggest plays on the touchdown drive that made the score 28-17 in the fourth quarter. On a 3rd and 10 from the 40, the Steelers came with weak side blitz, meaning Polamalu was supposed to step up and cover Jordy Nelson. Instead, Polamalu got spun around and started going the wrong direction. When Rodgers hit Nelson on a deep slant, Polamalu was nowhere to be found to make the tackle. The result was Nelson taking the ball down to the two yard line.

Two plays later, it was more of the same for Polamalu who was out of position in pass defense. The Packers went with a five-wide set and the Steelers countered by keeping seven players in coverage, rushing four. Each receiver was covered one-on-one, plus the safeties were taking one side of the end zone. Packers receiver Greg Jennings was on the inside of the three men to Rodgers’ right, and he ran a soft corner route. As you can see in the pictures below, Polamalu was leaning the wrong direction on Jennings’ cut (which was extremely soft), and he was a good five yards away from Jennings.

Not only did Polamalu blow coverages on several occasions during the game, but Green Bay’s propensity for spreading the field and throwing constantly prevented Polamalu from what he does best — attack the quarterback. In many ways, Green Bay replicated what the Patriots did earlier in the season, cementing the proper gameplan to beating the Steelers (provided you have the offensive personnel).

Though Polamalu won Defensive Player of the Year over the man I felt should have won it, Clay Matthews, justice prevailed as Matthews won the prize that truly matters — the Super Bowl.

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