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Polamalu: 'If attitude could win games, we'd go get a lot of cheerleaders'

Strong words from the Steelers' best defensive player. Stressing the message the team needs to execute, Troy Polamalu still has faith in the Steelers defense.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH -- Veteran cornerback Ike Taylor believes the Pittsburgh Steelers defense still has its swagger, even though the club is ranked 28th against the pass, 25th against the run and 23rd overall during an 0-4 start.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu agreed with Taylor, even though the Steelers have forced no turnovers and also is last with just four sacks. However, Polamalu quickly had an addendum to those comments.

"If attitude could win games, we'd go get a lot of cheerleaders, but we've also got to perform and execute," Polamalu said. "And we haven't executed very well at all. (And) Pittsburgh already has a Cheerleaders. ... You know, the gentlemen's club."

Polamalu's joke aside, he's correct. The Steelers need a lot more than attitude to get back on the winning track. The defense certainly could do a much better job executing defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's system, which the players all say they still have faith in despite the lack of success.

"Anytime we underperform, we let (LeBeau) down, and we haven't performed very well during these first four games," Polamalu said. "Of course, he's displeased, as displeased as we are with what we've seen on film. It's tough to accept, being 0-4, but it's the state of what we are right now. We've put together 0-4 efforts and have executed an 0-4 style.

"So, the only way to change this (and get a victory) is to change our performance and change our preparation in this game (Sunday against the New York Jets). ... We've definitely had games where the defense doesn't play well, and we've had games where our offense hasn't played well. The same for our special teams, but now we're not playing well all together."

Turnovers, or the lack thereof, are a key again for the Steelers defense. Polamalu, though, said that securing them isn't just a product of what a defense does on the football field.

"As a defense, we definitely have to stop the run first and we have to force teams to get into third-and-long situations, which teams have done a good job against us by not getting into those situations," Polamalu said.

"And we've got to get more out of our offense as well. And we need splash plays from our special teams. So, turnovers aren't just a defensive thing. They definitely are something that you need from every facet of the game."

In his heyday, so to speak, Polamalu was among the best Steelers defenders at making plays. This year, it's a different story, as the 11th-year veteran always appears to be a bit late in getting to the ball.

"To be honest, the only time I've touched the ball was to get a pinky on it with one hand in the Tennessee game and a pinky on it on one hand in the Cincinnati game," Polamalu said. "So, we just haven't been hitting the ball. We've seen, during the season, guys getting hit in the face with the ball and things like that.

"But it just hasn't happened to our defense at all this season. (So), I'm playing 0-4 like everybody else. I don't want to make any excuses for how I've played. I just have to play better. I have to make plays to help us win football games."

There have been nine plays of more than 25 yards against the Steelers defense this season, including a 60-yard run by Adrian Peterson and 55-yarder by Matt Forte. In the passing game, quarterback Matt Cassell threw for 70 yards to Greg Jennings and 51 yards to Jerome Simpson. Andy Dalton connected with Tyler Eifert for 61 yards, while Jay Cutler hit Brandon Marshall for 41 yards.

Polamalu wouldn't lay blame on any of those, as he was asked if some players were out of position because they tried to do too much.

"I don't know about that," Polamalu said. "Sometimes, we just get beat, because (the other team's players) are professionals as we are. Sometimes, it's a missed tackle, but I really can't think of a time when somebody tried to do too much. This season, I don't think that's happened."

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