With the presence of outstanding leaders on the defensive side of the ball, though, he's never had to assume a strong leadership role.
Starting with OTA Phase One, which began in Pittsburgh Tuesday, that is changing.
Polamalu typically works out in Los Angeles with Marv Marinovich, his trainer, during OTAs, but his presence, he said, is inspired by the obvious; many of the Steelers' leaders are gone.
"For obvious reasons, we had some major leadership leave, people who we can count on, and I think it is nice for the young guys to see a familiar face," Polamalu told the Tribune-Review.
It's not that Polamalu's work ethic or knowledge of the game doesn't befit anyone who plays professional football. It's that vocal leadership isn't exactly his thing. He's played his entire career with guys like former OLB Joey Porter, ILB James Farrior and ILB Larry Foote. He's played most of his career alongside FS Ryan Clark. These guys have been the defensive vocal leaders.
Will that change now? Polamalu insinuated to the Tribune-Review it isn't something that will change overnight, and may not consider himself a leader at all.
Guys like Polamalu, though, are always looked up to, whether they feel they embody leadership traits or not. Clearly, Polamalu recognizes that, which is part of his motivation for attending the three-day voluntary workout sessions.
Leaders are people who make waves with very little motion, and if Polamalu simply spending time with the team, getting to know people and running around a bit is seen as leadership, that's exactly what he's providing, whether he feels it is or not.