Impressive defense means an equally impressive culture. That’s Troy Polamalu’s philosophy. And he sees the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dominant D in 2019 as a testament to a locker room that’s closer than it’s been in a long time.
Polamalu joined Mark Madden on 105.9 The X for a 20 minute interview that largely revolved around his post-football days. Madden asked Polamalu, whose said the Steelers’ culture wasn’t the same in his final years with the team, if he thinks things are improving. Polamalu says he believes the culture is headed in the right direction.
“I don’t talk with too many guys in the locker room about this sort of thing but I think that truly is a byproduct of how the defense is playing,” Polamalu told Madden. “You know, I know that a really successful defense has to be extremely tight unit. So if that can be a byproduct of how much better the locker room is getting, then I think that’s a great indicator.”
The Steelers’ defense in 2019 was as good as it’s been since its last Super Bowl appearances. They led the league in sacks and takeaways, the latter finishing with a whopping 38 after a paltry 15 turnovers a year ago. Bud Dupree broke out, TJ Watt cemented himself as a mega-star, and Minkah Fitzpatrick was a home run trade. He became the first Steeler to pick off four passes in a season since Polamalu in 2010. That broke the longest drought in NFL history.
Polamalu heaped specific praise on the job Fitzpatrick did.
“Anytime that you can get around the ball, I truly appreciate that for the safety position in general. You either have to create opportunities to get the ball or sometimes just get lucky…so just to be able for somebody like him or you know, maybe more similar like Ed Reed that are always around the ball like that, I think is a tremendous gift for the Steelers’ defense.”
This season was also a testament to how close the locker room was. While Pittsburgh ultimately missed the playoffs, they climbed out of a 1-4 hole that would’ve doomed most other teams. They went on to win seven of their next eight games to get back to 8-5 before the offense bottomed out and they dropped the final three contests of the season.
With almost every player returning sans Javon Hargrave, there’s every expectation for the Steelers to have another dominant defense in 2020. Couple that with an offense that surely can’t be worse and will make significant improvement with Ben Roethlisberger returning, and the Steelers are poised to do what they did many times with Polamalu on their roster. Make a serious Super Bowl run.