PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't an Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator-like statement such as "I'll be back," and it got glossed over a bit since most of the questions surrounded his team's porous defensive performance this past week and the bullying incident in the Miami Dolphins locker room.
But among all that, Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu was asked if he planned on returning in 2014, his 12th NFL season and final one in a four-year, $36.5 million contract he signed in 2011. Polamalu, who is scheduled to make $8.25 million next season and be a free agent in 2015, humbly responded: "God willing."
There was no hesitation, despite his struggles this season and those of his defensive teammates. If posed at some other point in recent years, Polamalu's chances to return to the Steelers would have been in question due to health issues that dogged him in most games and forced him to miss three games in 2006, five in '07, 11 in '09, two in 2010 and nine this past season.
Polamalu played all 16 games in 2011 and appears to be as healthy ever through eight games this season, but his play has clearly declined. Maybe that's a product of his age, 33 on April 19, 2014, or it could be due to the beating he gives opposing players as well as himself on a weekly basis. Regardless, Polamalu has looked really bad at times this season, such as last week when the Steelers were torched by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
"How I feel now is irrelevant," Polamalu said. "What matters now is whether we turn it around or not. We can't really tell until the end of the season. (So), it's not time to look at hindsight. We're only halfway through the season. I'll have a lot of time whenever I'm done playing to look back on how every season went, but now is not the time."
During the New England game, as well as several other times this season, Polamalu's improvisational play has come into question because he appears to be out of position and a step or two late in coverage. Against the Pats in particular, when the Steelers were gashed for a franchise-worst 610 total yards and 55 points, Polamalu and his mates were unable to make a key play.
Polamalu didn't revisit the videotape on the Patriots.
"I knew where the mistakes were, and thank God they're all correctable," Polamalu said. "And we should be able to get back on track this week. There were as lot of mistakes."
Polamalu added that his misreading Brady's eyes was just one of the many mistakes he made in the game, but continued: "It's definitely about our execution" and not anything negative where beloved defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was concerned.
"You guys know how special a person he is, and that's not even talking about his football credentials," Polamalu said. "All that he's accomplished speaks for itself, but he's more than that to us. He's a very special person."
And LeBeau has the defense prepared every week, despite what others might think about him.
"Any of the top-flight quarterbacks -- Brady, (Drew) Brees, Peyton (Manning), Aaron Rodgers -- they make it tough on opposing defenses," Polamalu said. "The safeties play a huge role in this defense.
"We're the last line of defense (and) if it comes down to anyone scoring, you know that you can say there was a breakdown somewhere in the secondary. (But) we should have everything corrected this week."
The Steelers face the Buffalo Bills Sunday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Bills vs. Steelers: Everything you need to know
- Marrone: Bills will get Steelers' best game
- Steelers Film Room: No silver lining in loss to Pats
- 2014 NFL Mock Draft: Halfway through the misery
- Bills vs. Steelers: Game plans will be obvious for both teams
- Jarvis Jones speaks on hazing, Wounded Warriors and former teammate, Bills LT Cordy Glenn
- Sean Spence sees the optimism and hope in his recovery
- Brown agrees with benching, knows Steelers need better from him