Notebook: Polamalu not a freelancer

PITTSBURGH – Troy Polamalu takes pride in not wasting much time in front of the TV, particularly when it comes to football.

He was asked this week if he's ever watched Monday night football and Polamalu said, "I've peeped in and saw what was on the screen and turned around and walked away."

San Diego Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer, though, believes football fans should tune in just to watch Polamalu.

"I think he's fascinating," Schottenheimer said. "It's fun to watch him play because he's having fun."

Polamalu is having more fun than ever in his new role as a freelancing strong safety for the Steelers. But Polamalu doesn't like the term freelancing.

"Well, freelancing I would say is doing your own thing out there and I'm definitely not doing my own thing out there," he said. "I have a responsibility like everybody else on the defense. I feel comfortable enough with the scheme and with my athletic ability to be able to get away with some things, disguising and whatnot. Unfortunately, Joey (Porter) or Clark (Haggans) or James (Farrior) couldn't get away with something like that because they're designated to certain gaps as well as pass coverage, and Chris (Hope) and Mike (Logan) don't really drop down as much. I play just as much back as I play up so it allows me to disguise and do different things, which makes it look like I'm freelancing."

Because he's the link between the middle of the secondary and the middle of the line of scrimmage, Polamalu will play a key role Monday night in stopping San Diego's two-pronged attack of tight end Antonio Gates and running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

But, again, Polamalu disagrees with popular media wisdom.

"There are not too many times I'm going to be man to man on tight ends," he said. "I'll probably be man-to-man on wide receivers more than tight ends. It's going to be a great challenge for our whole secondary, not just me personally."

ATTACKING DOWN FIELD

Last year, the Chargers finished 31st in the league in defensive pass yards allowed per game (253.3). The Chargers improved slightly and are 26th this year (248.5). They rank 22nd in defensive completion percentage (62.3), 23rd in yards per attempt (7.72) and 24th in defensive passer rating (91.6).

The starters in the San Diego secondary are cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence and safeties Terrence Kiel and Bhawoh Jue, who, in his fifth season, is the most experienced of the group.

"They're young but they're good. They've got great ball skills," said Hines Ward. "If you put the ball up there, they're like wide receivers. They can catch the football."

Really? Jue, the free safety from Penn State, has two interceptions. Linebacker Donnie Edwards has the only other interception for the Chargers.

INJURY REPORT

Ward may not be at full strength, since aggravating a hamstring injury Wednesday, but is convinced he'll play. But Ward's injury bears watching, since hamstring injuries tend to linger.

Back-up quarterback Tommy Maddox injured his calf at Friday's practice and is listed as doubtful. All other Steelers are expected to play.

For the Chargers, right guard Toniu Fonoti has been out with a broken hand.

Linebacker Steve Foley, the team's leading pass-rusher last year with 10 sacks, missed two days of practice and struggled through a third with an abdominal injury. He said he'll play against the Steelers.

Other hurting Chargers are rookie kick returner Darren Sproles (third in NFL 28.7 avg.) and special teams captain Hank Milligan. Both are questionable with sprained ankles.

LINE HELP

The Steelers' offensive line is coming off its worst performance of the season, and last Monday rookie tackle Trai Essex and rookie guard Chris Kemoeatu took reps with the first team at left guard.

Did it mean anything?

"I think they just wanted to see if I can play guard," said Essex, the third-round pick who played only tight end and tackle at Northwestern.

"Luckily, I've been paying attention in meetings to know what a guard does," he said.

QUICK HITTERS

This will be the first Monday Night football game at Qualcomm Stadium since 1996. … The Steelers are 16-6 on Monday nights under Bill Cowher, who is also 6-1 against the Chargers in the regular season and 4-1 against Schottenheimer, whom Cowher considers his mentor. … Schottenheimer will coach his 300th regular-season game Monday. … The Chargers' 86 points in their last two games is their highest two-game total in 20 years. Their 41 points against New England was the most scored against the Patriots since 1998 … Tomlinson leads the NFL with eight touchdowns and is second with 450 rushing yards. … Drew Brees leads the NFL with a 124.1 passer rating on third down.

Steel City Insider Top Stories