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General skills of Steelers Troy Polamalu questioned by some heading into his 12th season

Pittsburgh's decorated safety will look to defy age, the opposition and skeptics next season

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

What more can Troy Polamalu do?

Last season, the 12-year safety answered critics that said he had become injury plagued and had lost a step.

It appears Polamalu will tackle even more criticisms as 2014 approaches.

Advanced age, declining skills and a hefty contract are among the knocks on Polamalu.

Joe Corry of the National Football Post said as much in his article naming Polamalu as one of the "Top 5 NFL Pay Cut Candidates."

Corry wrote: "Polamalu is no longer in the discussion regarding the NFL’s best safety. The 2010 Defensive Player of the Year was named to his eighth Pro Bowl in 2013, but the honor may have been based more on his reputation than his play. Polamalu, who turns 33 in April, has the NFL’s highest 2014 cap number for safeties at $10,887,500 in the final year of a three-year, $29.6 million contract extension.

"The Steelers would pick up $8.25 million of cap room by releasing their popular safety. Pittsburgh team president Art Rooney II would like for Polamalu to retire with the club. A pay cut could be folded into an extension that lowers Polamalu’s cap number and ensures that he never plays with another NFL team."

I do agree that it would be beneficial for the Steelres to find a way for Polamalu to accept a pay cut to help alleviate  Pittsburgh's financial strains. But that's about all I agree with in regareds to Corry's take on Polamalu.

"Polamalu is no longer in the discussion regarding the NFL’s best safety."

I'm still looking for the player polls or quotes by current coaches or contemporaries of Polamalu's to reinforce Corry's statement. He never offered one. To make an opionated statement like that, you would assume that there would be facts backing that up. It appears that the National Football Post is comfortable making those kind of statements without any supporting evidence.

"The 2010 Defensive Player of the Year was named to his eighth Pro Bowl in 2013, but the honor may have been based more on his reputation than his play."

While his first statement was off-base, this statement is just ignorant. Are you really going to criticize and analyze a player's Pro Bowl berth? Especially a player that overcame an injury that forced him out of nine games the previous season? Seems distasteful to me.

Anyone that watched Polamalu play last year knows he earned his Pro Bowl selection. He started all 16 games, totaled 69 tackles, defended 11 passes, and returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown. Polamalu also posted two sacks, recovered a fumble and forced a career-best five fumbles. Earl Thomas, the safety many consider the best safety in the game today, recorded two forced fumbles in 2013. Fellow Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry forced one fumble.

Polamalu's play goes beyond stats, though. It's the way he plays that makes him different. The fearless style of play that made him a Pittsburgh icon in his younger years was back in 2013. Polamalu showed that much in the first game, leaping over the line of scrimmage before Titans quarterback Jake Locker could gain his bearings. He was a force the entire year in helping the Steelers stop the run and the opposition's intermediate passing game.

Polamalu was named to his eighth Pro Bowl in 2013 because he deserved it, not because of his reputation.

He might be as great in pass protection on deeper routes, but that was never Polamalu's strong suit anyways. And he is still one of the better covermen in the game. Polamalu is paid to be physical and to be a playmaker. In 2013, he was all that and more.

Polamalu brought the attitude and veteran presence the defense needed to help turn the season around after a 2-6 start. The Ben Roethlisberger of the defense, Polamalu helped his younger teammates improve as the season progressed, helping the Steelers post a 6-2 record down the stretch.

Troy Polamalu has been challenged by critics before. He was challenged in 2004 after a disappointing rookie season. He responded with a seven interception season and his first Pro Bowl selection. He was challenged after some said he wouldn't be the same after an injury riddled 2009 season. He won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award the following year.

Something tells me that the Tasmanian Devil will come back even stronger in 2014.