Steel City Q&A: Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu leads them. (LeClaire/USA TODAY)

Troy Polamalu sat down with SCI's Mike Prisuta to discuss his relationship with the game and much more.

He had played what for the Steelers had been a meaningless regular-season finale against Cleveland the way he always plays.

For Troy Polamalu, there's no other way to play.

And after doing so last Dec. 30 against Cleveland, Polamalu explained that he plays not for rings or money but simply because he "enjoys football.

"Coach Tomlin always says that nothing can mess with your personal relationship with this game," Polamalu allowed. "Different people are motivated by different things. I'm not motivated by Pro Bowls or Super Bowls, to be honest. I just go out there because I really enjoy this game. When that stops then probably I'll stop playing.

"Today, to me, personally, was just another day to go out there and do something I really enjoy."

Polamalu elaborated during the first week of OTAs.

Q: What is your relationship with the game?

A: "This game has helped me a lot in every facet of my life. It's made slogans that you hear all the time like ‘courage,' ‘dedication' and ‘determination' real-life action. With all due respect to philosophy, I've always believed philosophy is just meaningless words until it becomes action. (Football) has turned philosophy into action for me. It's also, I guess, reiterated my belief system and faith system.

"I think people have a tendency to think you have two lives, a life outside of football, a life in football, a personal life, a social life and they're all separate. What football has taught me is there's no distinction between each; it permeates every fact of your life.

"Football is beautiful in the way that, unlike most team sports, it challenges you physically. People can get exhausted, mentally exhausted doing anything. But when you have to deal with injuries, when you have to deal with the fear of perhaps somebody that's bigger, stronger and faster than you and can really impose their will on you, and you have to overcome those circumstances physically that embodies emotion and spirituality and all that, right?

"So that's what I love, that this sport has provided for me the confidence to overcome those certain things."

Q: When did you realize football was doing all of that for you?

A: "It's kind of evolved, really. The older I've gotten and the more experience I've gotten with this game, I've been in the NFL for 11 years but I've been playing tackle football since the fifth grade. It continues to evolve and grow."

Q: So football is very important to you?

A: "Yeah, but it's a facet of my life; there's no distinction. My life would continue to grow with or without this game but I'm very thankful the role this game has played in my life."

Q: Do you envision your career continuing for a significant amount of time?

A: "The beautiful thing this game has taught me is tomorrow is never guaranteed. You can work your butt off in the offseason, come in in great shape and a freak accident can happen.

"Like I've said many times before, it's hard for me to talk years when I live day to day. That's one thing this game teaches you, you never know what's going to happen from moment to moment."

Q: Have you played your best football yet?

A: "It would be unfair for me to say that because I don't know what the future holds for me."

Q: Do you still feel as if you can play as well as you aspire to play?

A: "How I feel is irrelevant. I put the work in and whatever happens, happens. I just hope I'm spiritually prepared to endure whatever it is, temptations for injury, temptations for success and temptations for failure."

Q: Is your desire to play what it's always been?

A: "Absolutely, for sure. You hit it on the head with your very first question; it's about your relationship with this game. I enjoy the training aspect of this game. I always tell people I'm a professional trainer, not a professional football player. I play football 16 days out of the entire year. I train all the other days. Whether it's mentally or whether it's in the gym, it's always on my mind."

Q: You appeared to be back in form during the last two games last season and the defense generated pressure and collected sacks and turnovers. Do you appreciate how important you are toward that end?

A: "As a whole our defense started picking up; we started off pretty slow. Our team didn't function very well together last year. There are three different facets of our game, with special teams, offense and defense and all three really have to work in conjunction with each other and we didn't do that.

"It doesn't matter if you have the best defense or the worst defense, the best offense or the worst offense. They all have to work in conjunction with one another. That's why you can see a team like New England or teams that just have great offenses or a great defense like we did, we were the No.1 defense last year, and it doesn't work out. All aspects of the game have to function properly and work together."

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