The Steelers safety suggested Wednesday that the NFL is leveling fines for hits more for its own interest than that of the players.
"I think regarding the evolution of football, it's becoming more and more flag football, two-hand touch," Polamalu said. "We've really lost the essence of what real American football is about. I think it's probably all about money. They're not really concerned about safety."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called Polamalu's comments "very disappointing'' on "Sportsline with Steve Davis" on WBAL 1090 in Baltimore.
The Steelers have asked the NFL to clarify why Hines Ward, one of the league's best blocking wide receivers, was fined $15,000 the past two games for unnecessary roughness despite not being penalized.
Ward was fined $10,000 following the Steelers' 26-21 win at Jacksonville on Oct. 5, a week after drawing a $5,000 fine for a play in which he stepped over Baltimore cornerback Corey Ivy on Sept. 29. Ward did not draw a penalty on either play.
Also following the Jacksonville game, Steelers linebacker James Harrison was fined $20,000 for criticizing referee Brian Winter for calling a roughing-the-passer penalty against him. Two other Steelers also drew fines for that game, safety Ryan Clark $7,500 for unnecessary roughness -- a late hit -- and wide receiver Nate Washington $7,500 for taunting. Among the four players, the one-game fines totaled $45,000.
"It's starting to cost too much money to come to work for these guys," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday.
Tomlin said he planned to call the NFL office about the Ward fines, and team chairman Dan Rooney wrote a letter questioning why Ward was fined.
"We want to be a team and he [Ward] wants to be a player who plays the game the way it's supposed to be played, the way our league wants it to be played," Tomlin said. "We respect that. But we need a little clarity in that situation."
Polamalu said that football's essence is being taken away with the NFL's heavy-handed penalties, saying football "just loses so much of its essence when it becomes like a pansy game."
Polamalu said that past NFL greats wouldn't be able to play the way that made them great in today's game.
"When you see guys like Dick Butkus, the Ronnie Lotts, the Jack Tatums, these guys really went after people," Polamalu told reporters. "Now, they couldn't survive in this type of game. They wouldn't have enough money. They'd be paying fines all the time and they'd be suspended for a year after they do it two games in a row. It's kind of ridiculous."
However, Polamalu made it clear he doesn't defend players who take cheap shots.
"I didn't mean being cheap, but [those who] don't take anything from anybody," Polamalu said. "Know what I mean? Joe Greene wouldn't take anything from anybody. Joey Porter wouldn't. When people came to our field, they knew this was our home field. Nobody was going to mess with us. ... That's the type of attitude I think is really awesome."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.