Notebook: Polamalu was "lucky" against Boller

<b>PITTSBURGH -- </b> The last time Troy Polamalu played against Kyle Boller, he returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown to spark a 55-14 rout of California. <br><br> Polamalu, the former USC and current Steelers safety, wasn't bragging about the play, saying only that "I got lucky."

It's typical of Polamalu, who'll face his former Pac-10 rival Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens come to Heinz Field. It will be the first NFL game for both players, and since Polamalu missed last year's USC-Cal game with a sprained ankle it will be the first time in two years he's played against Boller.

"He's very good, very good and I'm sure he's learned a lot and gotten a lot better since college," Polamalu said. "He's a definite starter and his role as the quarterback is to lead, so he's under a lot of pressure. I don't have nearly as much pressure on me."

Polamalu won't start, but he'll play in the Steelers' nickel and dime packages. One of his main preoccupations will be Ravens tight end Todd Heap, another Pac-10 product (Arizona State). He played against Polamalu during the 2000 season.

"We won. That's all that matters," Polamalu said. "But he did very well. He's very difficult to cover. You win some you lose some, but the point is winning the game."

If the Steelers win Sunday, much will depend on Polamalu. If he's not blitzing Boller, he'll be covering Heap.

"Then you've got to put up with their running back, too," Polamalu said of Jamal Lewis. "I've never seen anybody run as hard as him. It will be a great challenge for me and my teammates."

BEST PICK-UP

Polamalu is the Steelers' top draft acquisition and it's looking like Todd Fordham is their best pick-up through free agency. Expected to be the team's swing lineman, Fordham has instead won the right tackle position and will start against the Ravens. Everyone seems surprised but him.

"You always go in thinking you're going to start," he said. "I've always learned that you have to prepare like you're going to be the starter and always hope for the best, expect the worst, give it everything you've got and see what happens."

But it didn't appear as if Fordham would get an opportunity. He played sparingly while Coach Bill Cowher's first choice, Oliver Ross, struggled through three preseason games.

"I believe that whatever's supposed to happen will happen," Fordham said. "Things have a way of working out. You just stay focused on the things you can control in life, like giving it all you've got and making the most out of every opportunity you're given, and let good things happen where they may."

Fordham has played against the Ravens several times. He spent six years with the Jacksonville Jaguars after joining the team as an undrafted rookie out of Florida State, where he became friends with Peter Boulware, the Ravens' three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker.

"The thing about playing a guy like that, you know he's pretty good and he'll win sometimes," Fordham said. "The most I've played against him, other than practices at Florida State, was when I played left tackle in Jacksonville. He plays mainly over there but they flip-flop. It's kind of a defense where you have to play against every side. That's the way he plays it. And you know every time you line up against him you'd better have everything buckled up because he's going to bring it."

SUPER SUBS

Clark Haggans, who was in the bar with Joey Porter the night he was shot, will take Porter's place, and he wanted to clarify a statement he'd made to a mob of reporters in the aftermath of the incident.

Haggans was asked why, after recording six sacks in the first half of last season, he had only half a sack in the second half. Haggans said "I guess I didn't have the same tenacity I had at the start of the season."

The next day, amid more calm surroundings, Haggans was asked about the statement.

"No. I'm tenacious every game. I just said that because I don't have the answer," he said. "I just didn't get there and I can't really put my finger on it. I still tried to get off on the ball, give it my all and use the techniques Coach [John Mitchell] has been teaching me. I just didn't get there."

Haggans will replace Porter in the base defense and inside linebacker James Farrior will replace him as the drop backer in the dime.

"I don't think it's that difficult," said Farrior, "other than the fact you're the only linebacker out there and there's extra emphasis on you playing the run by yourself. You don't have any other linebackers to help you out and the DBs are going to be in coverage. One of my main jobs is to focus on the run just in case."

RAVENS MISSING A BEAT

In the Ravens' championship 2000 season, the Lewis trio led the way on offense, defense and special teams. Both Ray and Jamal Lewis are healthy, so the Ravens believe their defense and running game can bring about a return to glory.

However, they're missing more than Jermaine Lewis on special teams. The fleet return man is gone, but other problems have cropped up. In the last preseason game, the Ravens fumbled a punt and a kickoff, had another punt bounce off a player's foot and had a punt blocked – all in the first half.

Here are the Ravens' special-teams stats from the preseason, with the 2000 numbers in parenthesis: punt returns 4.5 (15.9), opponents' punt returns 12.6 (9.3), kickoff returns 18.5 (22.3), opponents' kickoff returns 24.3 (21.3), net punting 32.8 (33.9), field-goal conversion 67 percent (90 percent).

QUOTABLE

Steelers safety Mike Logan on the Porter shooting: "I think it will inspire everybody. Everyone who knows Joey, who knows what kind of person he is, was sorry to see something like this happen to him, yet we kind of came together. It's a shame that it sometimes takes things of a bad nature to happen for everybody to really come together. We started to get that at camp, because we were away from our families and we were up there starting to get that continuity with each other, but when things like that happen you tend to come together a little bit closer and I think that's what's happening here."

Jim Wexell
SteelCitySports.com

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