It may be the final game for a few veterans, but Steelers safety Troy Polamalu won't be one of them.
We'll see why today.
Polamalu looked like the explosive and dominant player he is when healthy last week, as the Steelers' defense suffocated the Bengals, not allowing a touchdown and holding them to 15 yards on 16 carries.
Cincinnati had been averaging well over 100 yards a game on the ground before that.
Unpredictable, athletic and instinctual is probably the best way to describe Polamalu on the field, and when he has all of those things working for him, he's one of the best defensive players in the game.
And he considers quarterbacks with little or no experience his chum. Cleveland's Thad Lewis will be making his first career start Sunday, and said earlier in the week Polamalu is the guy he's most concerned with because he "breaks the rules."
The Steelers defense can win nearly all of their 1-on-1s against Cleveland's offense, and that gives Polamalu even more incentive to play to his instincts and try to make plays. The Steelers won't likely need a ton of scoring to defeat Cleveland, and a few big defensive plays would all but assure the Steelers avoid their first losing season of the Mike Tomlin Era, and first since 2003.
While familiarity may breed contempt, unfamiliarity is a difficult opponent for which to plan. Cleveland's primary offensive weapon this season was rookie running back Trent Richardson, who will not play in this game. What exactly Cleveland will do is up in the air; Montario Hardesty will get the start at running back, but whether he'll get 20 or more total touches (like Richardson did the majority of this season) remains to be seen.
What Cleveland can count on, though, is Polamalu being all over the field, and very well could force a few turnovers.