Steelers -- Polamalu making his move

<b> LATROBE –</b> Training camp is the place where legends are born, and the Steelers' goal-line drills are particularly fertile ground. Ask Kendrell Bell. <br><br> Troy Polamalu, however, is proving to be an unwilling legend.

"I just jumped on the pile," he said of a third-and-one stop of running back Amos Zereoue. It's a tackle reporters have tried to pin on Polamalu, the rookie strong safety.

"Sorry," Polamalu said. "But I didn't make that tackle."

Still, the first-round pick was on the field with the first team, which, after only one week of camp, is a significant step.

"He'll be on it," defensive coordinator Tim Lewis said of the goal-line defense. "That's what we did with Kendrell the first year. That's what you do with a guy you know is a good hitter."

Polamalu may not have made the big hit, but he's in the target area and that's a start. So was the fact he was a part of the nickel defense Wednesday night in front of 8,000 paying fans at Latrobe Stadium.

With the first-team defense confronted with a 2nd-and-12 situation, the Steelers used their nickel package for the first time this camp. However, instead of using three cornerbacks, Lewis called on three safeties. Mike Logan moved down in the box with Polamalu at strong safety and Brent Alexander at free safety.

"Deshea [Townsend] already knows all of it," Lewis said of his third cornerback. "We were trying to get reps for Mike. The bottom line is we're trying to have everyone become as versatile as possible. During the season you're not going to have 15 guys. You need that flexibility."

Polamalu was asked if his head has stopped swimming from learning the defenses.

"No," he said. "But I'm slowly picking things up, I still have a lot of learning to do, everything from tackling, pass coverages, zone drops, man-to-man defense. You name it."

Lewis believes the rookie is being too hard on himself. That night, he called Polamalu "a powerful little guy." The next day, Lewis was enthusiastic over how quickly Polamalu is picking up the defense.

"It's amazing to me," Lewis said. "[Secondary coach] Willy [Robinson] put all four installations in, that we had prior to him getting here, and the guy just came out and picked them up. It's weird. He's really sharp."

Polamalu had predicted last spring he'd have less difficulty picking up pro defenses than many expected. He cited his understanding of the pro schemes used at Southern Cal by former pro coach Pete Carroll.

And Polamalu's reaction to the team's first goal-line practice of the preseason?

"It was very intense, very intense," he said. "But it's still not game speed. These guys have been doing that drill for about 12 years, some of those guys, so there's a big difference between practice and a game. Still, it was faster than anything I've ever seen. It was very intense."

Jim Wexell

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