Polamalu fights back

PITTSBURGH – The rumble began with Jerome Bettis proclaiming – no, guaranteeing – victory.

Heads turned and antennae pricked up. Was Bettis guaranteeing a win over Jacksonville?

As reporters moved in, Bettis began singing the Notre Dame fight song.

Now it was making sense: Bettis had guaranteed a Notre Dame win over Southern Cal. And, uh oh, here comes Troy Polamalu.

Bettis saw him, too, and the singing became louder.

"They want what we have," Polamalu said before taking hurried flight.

Polamalu covered his ears and began walking in the opposite direction, but Bettis closed in, the singing even louder.

Polamalu was left with little choice. He stopped, turned and pulled up his baggy shorts to reveal his true colors: the Cardinal and Gold of Southern Cal's workout tights.

The two players laughed and went their separate ways. It was an example of the way Polamalu likes to fight back: more mind than matter. There's always a better way.

Against the San Diego Chargers on Monday night, Polamalu did not find a better way. He attacked the Chargers physically and verbally. Rumor spread through the defense that Troy was actually trash-talking, and, sure enough, there was Polamalu on national TV, barking after plays. And there he was drawing a flag after dragging Eric Parker well past the out of bounds marker and, whoa, was that a knee he sent into Parker's gut? Is that really Troy Polamalu out there stirring up all this trouble?

"I don't want to talk about it," Polamalu told reporter after reporter. "I prefer to move on."

The reporters kept coming. They considered his actions last game to be out of character. Yes, Polamalu played a big role in a run defense that held LaDainian Tomlinson to 62 yards on the ground. And, yes, his epic battle against Chargers tight end Antonio Gates were captured by the TV cameras. Polamalu had indeed played another outstanding game. He led the Steelers with eight solo and nine total tackles. But what's become of the Jedi warrior who likes to compare football to a work of art, specifically, and, in general, a struggle between good and evil?

"A lot of people have asked," said Polamalu, "but I haven't commented on it."

Would he care to?

"Not really," he said. "It's over with. If it was a bye week, I'd talk about it, but in this business it's really best to move on."

And then he paused. A thought was moving from Polamalu's mind to his lips. The reporter waited.

"It was just an emotional game," he said. "That's pretty much all I can tell you."

The truth had escaped.

"When you're passionate about something," Polamalu said, "things can definitely get to you."

Sometimes, it's about more than a song.

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