Q&A: Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Steelers' All-Pro safety talks about the evolution of the game from its glorious old-school days to the modern "flag football" era.

Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: How do you like the new commercial you did?

A: I think it's pretty cool. I think it turned out really well. It was really fun to do. Well, I shouldn't say really fun, kind of fun to do. For the like 15 seconds of Steeler film that was on it, there was like eight, 10 hours of work. Man, I really respect actors.

Q: What was L.T.'s reaction to it?

A: I don't know. I haven't talked to him. I've worked with him before and he's a really nice guy.

Q: How much did you practice for the big hit with him on the field?

A: Oh, we didn't touch each other. We just kind of zoomed by each other and then we sat back and watched the stunt doubles hit each other about 50 times.

Q: What do you think about the Bengals having to play with a new quarterback?

A: Carson's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He comes from the best college in college football. It's tough to replace somebody like that. However, it's not a one-man team. There's nobody who cannot be replaced. We've been successful no matter what second-string players have played. And as coach said, the level of expectation can't fall off. So we're going to be prepared. We're going to get their best shot. It really doesn't matter who's at quarterback, who's at running back.

Q: The replacement is from Harvard. Isn't that what you'd need to replace someone from Southern Cal?

A: Yeah, we have quite a reputation of being an academic school.

Q: What's your take on all the fines? And have you ever been fined by the league?

A: I'm not familiar with the fines that are going on. I didn't know there were, sorry.

Q: Nate got one. Hines got one. Ryan got one.

A: Well, I think regarding the evolution of football, it's becoming more and more flag football, two-hand touch. We've really lost the essence of what real American football is about. I think it's probably all about money. They're not really concerned about safety, because people have been doing this for thousands of years (laughs) – no, for quite a few decades.

Q: A history major at USC, right?

A: (laughs). No, but for a long time people have played that way. Now it's tough. You've got to figure out how to tackle people a new way. There's such a fine line in hitting quarterbacks late, whether they're going to slide or come forward. It's too much.

Q: What do you feel is the essence of American football?

A: I think if you look at any sport, maybe besides mixed martial arts, it's the real gladiator sport. We go out there, really, at a high speed and we're just killing each other out there. You look at these guys who are dying at 40 and 50 years old and it makes you wonder how much this really takes out of you. I don't know. It just loses so much of its essence when it becomes kind of a pansy game, because when you see guys like Dick Butkus – really raw, old school, pound-it-out type of football players – those have become our football heroes, way up to the Ronnie Lotts, Jack Tatums. These guys really went after people. They were that way because the game was physical. Now, they couldn't survive in this type of game.

Q: They couldn't function.

A: Well, they wouldn't have enough money. They'd be paying fines all the time, and then they'd be suspended for the year after they do it two games in a row. It's kind of ridiculous.

Q: Knowing the risks, why do you do it?

A: I think it's fun. It's just the essence of what NFL football is. You don't want to get into a sport that loses that core mentality. It's like playing basketball: ‘Oh, you can't body somebody up. You can't touch them. You can only play defense from a foot out.' It takes away from the real athleticism of the sport.

Q: Have you been fined for anything this year, Troy?

A: No, thank God I haven't. I've been fined quite a bit in the past.

Q: If Hines Ward were on another team, would you be upset with how he plays?

A: No, not at all. I don't get mad at people who take shots at me at all. I understand that that's a part of the game.

Q: Doesn't that new commercial epitomize the gladiator element?

A: Kind of. It's showing things that people don't see on Sundays, the training. ‘The Destiny' is the name of the commercial. From a little kid you kind of dream, you look up to those people – the Dick Butkuses, the Jack Tatums, the Mean Joe Greenes, the Jack Lamberts, guys who did things after, who were ruthless. But like I said, it's lost that.

Q: You don't do things after the whistle. When did you lose your ruthlessness?

A: Quite honestly, I'm not that type of player I don't think. For example, Joey (Porter) would be that type of player. And I loved that about Joey, that he was that type of player. If you take that away from us, we kind of lose our identity. And with that, football loses its identity.

Q: Speaking to not necessarily being foul or cheap after the whistle, but just playing hard –

A: I didn't mean being cheap. Not taking any crap. Know what I mean? Joe Greene wouldn't take crap from anybody. Do you know what I mean? Joey Porter wouldn't take crap from anybody. When people came to our field, they knew this was our home field. Nobody was going to mess with us. When Warren Sapp was going to try to run between the Pittsburgh Steelers when they went down there to Tampa Bay, the Steelers weren't going to let that happen. That's the type of attitude that I think is really awesome.

Q: Do all the fines for rough play cheapen that attitude in your eyes?

A: I think in everybody's eyes, quite honest; everybody but quarterbacks and the front office (laughs).

Q: Could you imagine being fined for hitting too hard?

A: You should ask the old players that. They should speak up about the style of play now.

Q: Was there a Butkus in your childhood?

A: I was a Walter Payton fan.

Q: Were you coached to be physical?

A: Oh yeah. I had a couple players in my family. Our Thanksgivings were more physical than our Sundays.

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