PolamaluFor the second time in the last three seasons, a Pittsburgh Steeler has been named the AP Defensive Player of the Year.
Safety Troy Polamalu is the 2010 winner, two years after teammate James Harrison took home the award. It's the seventh time a Steeler has won the award, that's by far the most by one franchise. (The Giants are second with four.)
Despite missing two games this season, Polamalu finished tied for second in the NFL with seven interceptions. Since 2008, the only players who have more interceptions than Polamalu’s 17 are Ed Reed, Asante Samuel (20 each) and Charles Woodson (18).
Steelers Last 2 Seasons
Pass Defense vs 3+ WR Sets
In addition to seven interceptions, Polamalu also had five tackles for loss. According to ESPN video analysis, the Washington Redskins' DeAngelo Hall was the only other player with five interceptions and five tackles for loss this season.
Just how important is the eight-year safety to the Steelers' success? Since 2009 (including playoffs):
• The Steelers are 15-4 when he plays, 6-7 when he does not;
• Pittsburgh averages 2.3 takeaways per game with Polamalu in the lineup (1.0 when he’s out);
• Opponents average 14.5 points when he plays, 21.5 when he does not;
• 9-0 when he has an interception;
• 9-1 when he has at least five tackles.
Has this award translated to Super Bowl success? In recent history the answer is yes. Polamalu is the fifth player in the last 20 seasons to win the award in the same year his team went to the Super Bowl. The previous four players (2008 James Harrison, 2002 Derrick Brooks, 2000 Ray Lewis, 1994 Deion Sanders) all played for the winning Super Bowl team.