The path not taken by Troy Polamalu

PITTSBURGH -- A conversation on how Troy Polamalu befriended Red Sox rightfielder Shane Victorino at a select Dodgers tryout years ago pivoted into how he almost pursued a career in baseball instead of football.

"I agreed to play baseball at USC," Polamalu said.

Polamalu was a speedy centerfielder who excelled at baseball as well as football while attending high school in Oregon. He went to USC on a football scholarship, but he said he also had every intention of playing baseball in college.

He was, ahem, strongly encouraged to concentrate on football when he arrived at Southern Cal, but a coaching change after his sophomore season provided an opening for Polamalu to play baseball.

Or at least try to.

"When I went out for baseball I had taken two years off and I just didn’t have it," Polamalu said. "I wasn’t seeing anything that moved. I was scrimmaging with [USC] and was on top of everything that was a fastball, but any offspeed pitch ..."

Polamalu laughed as he imitated corkscrewing himself into the ground while trying to hit a breaking ball.

When new Trojans coach Pete Carroll encouraged Polamalu to focus on football, that put the latter back on a course that has worked out pretty well for him.

The Steelers, too.

Polamalu probably could have had a career as a baseball player, but he still follows the game. And when he runs into Victorino on the charity circuit they talk about that Dodgers tryout -- they were among the 20 to 30 players invited it -- and how they were in a lot of the same drills together.

One thing Polamalu loves about playoff baseball is how every pitch matters, and there is a parallel to it and games such as the ones the Steelers and Ravens play on a regular basis.

"It’s the same in playoff football," Polamalu said of the significance of every play, "but it’s the same in rivalry games as well."