Farrior, Polamalu thrive in system

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> James Farrior had the kind of game against the Philadelphia Eagles that reinforced the growing notion he is destined to play in Honolulu the week after he plays in Jacksonville.

Or something like that.

But playing in the Pro Bowl after the Super Bowl is a possibility for several Steelers, and Farrior is one of the reasons. He leads the team in tackles, has three sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and enough key tackles - like the one he made on Brian Westbrook in the flat on third-and-two Sunday - to make one wonder whether he was born to play for new coordinator Dick LeBeau.

So was he born to play for new coordinator Dick LeBeau?

"Yeah, I think so," said Farrior. "I think we complement each other well. It's not just me, it's the whole defense. He's got everybody playing on a hot level. Everybody's out there making plays. It seems like it's a different guy each week. We're all flourishing in his system."

LeBeau has the Steelers ranked in the top 10 in all 11 of the categories the NFL deems most important, or in other words the categories they package for media consumption. The Steelers also rank in the top 10 in five additional categories. In sum, the Steelers can rush the passer, defend the pass, defend the run and limit scoring.

In other words, the Steelers are doing it all defensively.

So what had some of these next-generation Steelers expected from LeBeau? Farrior asked around before the hire was made Jan. 16.

"Nobody really told me how good a coordinator he was," Farrior said. "Everybody just talked about how good of a guy he was. Jason Gildon was one of the guys I asked how things were when LeBeau was here, and he said, 'Man, he's a real cool coach. He's real calm and laid back and everybody's going to love him.'

"We all do love him. He's probably one of the best coaches I've been around."

Troy Polamalu is another young player who asked around. He'd experienced a miserable rookie season, so he was curious for a reason.

"When I heard that coach (Tim) Lewis got fired, the first thing I did was call coach (Darren) Perry to see what the situation was, and to wish good luck to coach Lewis as well," Polamalu said. "Coach Perry was telling me about some of the other guys they were thinking about, but he was hoping coach LeBeau would get the job. All he talked about was his character and how he was like a father to him and how I would love to play for him as well. And I think I'm very similar to the type of person coach Perry is, so I could obviously take his words for it, and so I was on his side all the way.

"Of course, everything worked out for us, and is working out for us thus far. He's such a great guy to play for and is definitely one of my top two favorite coaches I've ever played for. It's a blessing to have him."

Polamalu has also flourished under LeBeau. The strong safety leads the Steelers in solo tackles and has two interceptions halfway through the season. Last Sunday, Polamalu was asked to cover Terrell Owens when the Eagles' star lined up in the slot. The ploy obviously worked.

"He surprises us every week with the stuff he comes up with," said Farrior. "He's probably just sitting at his desk and just thinking of ways we can take advantage of an offense. It's really amazing how he does it."

Next up are the Cleveland Browns, who present more balance than either New England or Philadelphia did. Neither team had a running threat to match Cleveland's duo of Lee Suggs and William Green.

"There's no doubt in my mind that what he puts us in, what he comes up with every week, has a very, very high percentage of working," said free safety Chris Hope. "Not to say that Tim's stuff wasn't working, because it's similar, but when you have a coach that believes in you, and he lets you do what you do well, you can't help but fight for him every time you go on the field."

Is everyone having fun yet?

"Oh, it's very fun to see quarterbacks checking and looking at me and Troy and we're just moving, giving out a whole bunch of dummy routes," Hope said. "He's just watching, changing, changing three or four times. Before you know it he's got to snap it so the clock doesn't run out on him. And then there are times where he's checked off to the side of the blitz and we're not even coming that way and the blitz from the other side is just wide open. It's a good feeling to look back at it in the film room and see how wide open the blitz came."

NOTES - Four Steelers missed Thursday's practice: Lee Mays (hamstring), Duce Staley (hamstring), Verron Haynes (toe) and Chad Scott (quadriceps). Scott won't play Sunday and Haynes is doubtful. Coach Bill Cowher was non-committal about Staley, who's questionable. Mays is probable.

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