The bonds that players form between one another can be deep, and last a lifetime. That which formed between former Pittsburgh Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark is surely one of them. With the former being named a first-ballot finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the latter, who has since entered the realm of the media, has been talking him up…and sharing some anecdotes.
He had quite an amusing one to share on The QB Podcast a couple of days ago. It’s best to hear/read it in full, so I’m not going to do a lot of commentary on this one. I’ve transcribed it below, so just read along, but he prefaced the story first with this:
“Now, it also put me in a lot of messed up situations. I knew that he was gonna blitz. if [the quarterback] threw the ball to the flat, then I need to tackle this guy from the middle of the field. So I knew those things, and they just worked for us”, he said. Then he went into a story about a game against the Raiders in which one of Polamalu’s tape study-fueled gambles didn’t exactly go the way he expected.
I remember we were playing the Raiders. The Raiders beat us one year with 98 total yards of offense. So we were pissed off. They were kind of getting a drive. They kept throwing the hitch to the outside, so they run a seam with the tight end, throw a hitch outside, because we were playing quarter-quarter-half.
But backside, they were running a post-corner, and I was in the half. So Troy was like, RC, I’m letting you know, we get this formation again, I’m gonna jump the hitch. I said, ‘well Troy, if you jump the hitch, who in the hell’s gonna cover this seam?’ He was like, RC, you can do it’. I was like, ‘Troy, you jump the hitch, they’re gonna throw the seam’. He said, he looks at me, and you know he had that light voice, and he says, ‘RC, they’ll never throw it’.
So sure enough, they come out, we get the formation, the seam starts, outside receiver runs a hitch, Troy takes off. Boom, he’s flying to it, right? So now I’m playing the backside kind of in the middle of the field, because I’m like, I don’t know what they’re gonna do. And you know exactly who they threw the ball to, the dang tight end on the seam.
So man, the good part was, the quarterback sucked, he threw the ball in the dirt, Troy’s running back to the huddle laughing at me. He said, ‘I told you they’d never throw it’. I said, ‘all people was gonna see was me in the middle of the field missing this tackle because you jumped the hitch in the wrong coverage’. But that’s who he was.
The 98-yard game was in 2006, which was Clark’s first season in Pittsburgh, but they did not play the Raiders again until 2009. They lost that game, too, with Bruce Gradkowski starting, but they would blow out Oakland 35-3 the following year in 2010. Gradkowski finished that game, too, but was started by Jason Campbell. Polamalu was out with an injury in the 2009 game. He recorded an interception in the 2010 game.