Before being traded to the Jets, wide receiver Santonio Holmes spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, where he had a close-up view of safety Troy Polamalu. Preparing to face him for the first time in the AFC title game on Sunday, Holmes praised Polamalu as the greatest player he's ever seen.
But when Polamalu appeared in the Steelers' locker room before this afternoon's practice, he was having none of that. With a laugh, Polamalu said of Holmes, "He couldn't be any more off the charts than he is now. He's not thinking right calling me that. That's good for this week, but I don't know."
Polamalu (pictured) missed the Jets' 22-17 win on Dec. 19 at Heinz Field with an ankle/Achilles injury he still is nursing now in limited practice sessions. In typically modest fashion, he said his absence was not the difference in the first meeting.
"I just re-watched the game, there were opportunities to make plays that we missed out on," Polamalu said. "Just a little gap here that you miss, whether it's a linebacker or a secondary or d-lineman, it makes all the difference."
The Jets gained 102 yards rushing in that game, and Polamalu said that was a major factor. "We've always worried about stopping the run first here," Polamalu said. "They rushed for a little over 100 yards, and they controlled the flow of the game with that. That was the most important thing, not the stats, but the pace of the game."
He added that he was amazed Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson "was on the street for so long" after leaving the Chargers as a free agent. He expressed his admiration for the Jets' "two-headed monster" with Tomlinson and Greene and is hoping to see a lot of them on Sunday.
Comparing the Steelers' second-ranked defense this season to the one that won the Sujper Bowl two seasons ago, Polamalu said, "I think we had more of a complete defense in '08. We played a lot better on the back end. I think people are really pass-first against us this year.
"But this week, I anticipate kind of an old-school, Ravens-Steelers kind of game, where it's just run, run, run and defense. Hopefully, that's what we get because we feel comfortable in those games and they've been successful playing in those kind of games, as well. We'll see how it turns out."