Gamebreaker: Troy Polamalu Vs The Browns

After starting a series that looked at players that consistently dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers, I thought it would be a nifty idea to switch around my focus. Instead of focusing on players that have shredded the Steelers, let’s remember the good times and look at current or former Steelers that have dominated their division rivals. This series will be named after Gamebreaker mode from the NFL Street video game series. Activating Gamebreaker made players nearly unstoppable and there is no doubt that these Steelers were nearly unstoppable against their division rivals.

Being the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns is no easy task. It becomes a much more daunting task when they are forced to go up against defensive backs like Troy Polamalu twice a year. The Browns have had a carousel of quarterbacks since they returned to the NFL in 1999 and Polamalu has managed to intercept passes from more than just a few of them.

Polamalu has recorded eight career interceptions against the Browns, a staggering figure. Only Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed has grabbed more interceptions against the Cleveland franchise than the Steelers safety. The Browns have undergone a ton of change over their last two decades of operations. From new quarterbacks to new coaches to new general mangers, stability has been hard to come by but the one event that can always be counted on is Polamalu making life difficult for a Cleveland quarterback.

Eight interceptions are no easy feat but now consider that eight of those interceptions came from seven different quarterbacks.

  • Jeff Garcia
  • Kelly Holcomb
  • Derek Anderson
  • Josh Cribbs
  • Colt McCoy x2
  • Seneca Wallace
  • Thad Lewis

Working down Polamalu’s hit list, let’s begin with 2004. His second year in the NFL saw the former USC safety record his first multi-interception game and of course, it came against the Browns. Polamalu intercepted both Jeff Garcia and Kelly Holcomb in this game as his reign of terror against the Dog Pound begun.

Polamalu was silent for the next couple of years, much to Cleveland’s likings but he returned with a vengeance in 2008. Starting in 2008, the Steelers safety recorded at least one interception against the Browns each season for the next five years. During the 2008 season, Polamalu’s interception against Derek Anderson was a crucial reason why the Browns were held to just six points and the Steelers escaped with a tight 10-6 victory.

You might have noticed one name that did not seem to fit in on the list. Josh Cribbs is no ordinary quarterback but he did handle Cleveland’s wildcat offense during his tenure there. Polamalu had the honor of picking him off as well as he was able to jump in front of this pass.

Colt McCoy is the only quarterback on the list that the now Hall of Fame safety has picked off twice and both of those interceptions were a thing of beauty. They showed off the rare combination of ball skills and instincts that Polamalu possessed.

Both of Polamalu’s final interceptions against the Browns came in similar fashion. They both came near the sideline and both saw the former Steelers safety jump the route. On the first play, Polamalu is carrying the tight end who is running an out route in man coverage. The Steelers safety jumps under the route and comes down with the pick. Polamalu is in zone on the second play but reads the route quickly and efficiently, jumping in front of the Thad Lewis throw for his eighth and final interception against the Browns.

Majority of these quarterbacks are now out of the NFL, trading in a game of professional football for a more lowkey family life. Instead of throwing to 6’4 wide receivers, most probably throw to their sons now instead, though one would think that even during father-son games of catch, these quarterbacks still likely scan the yard for any sign of Troy Polamalu.

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