Scott Brown | ESPN.com
PITTSBURGH — His 11th NFL season likely will end Sunday, but strong safety Troy Polamalu isn’t ready to call it a career if the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t beat the Cleveland Browns and get the help they need to make the playoffs.
“I’ll honor my contract with the Steelers,” Polamalu told ESPN.com on Friday. “That’s what I hope to do, but we’ll see how everything bears out after this game.”
Polamalu’s contract runs through the 2014 season, when he is scheduled to make $8.25 million.
The Steelers could ask the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year to take a pay cut because of their salary-cap situation and Polamalu’s advancing age. They did that with outside linebacker James Harrison last year and released him when the two sides couldn’t agree on a new deal.
Polamalu turns 33 in April, and his desire to continue playing beyond 2013 may stem from how healthy he has stayed this season.
He has not missed a game even though he has played a significant number of snaps at inside linebacker and remains a collision waiting to happen on the field.
The 5-foot-10, 207-pounder missed nine games last season because of a recurring calf injury.
“I feel great,” Polamalu said. “I honestly feel better than I did at the end of last year even with the games that I missed.”
He credited in-season work with longtime trainer Marv Marinovich as well as his physical therapist for feeling so fresh near the end of the season.
I’ll honor my contract with the Steelers. That’s what I hope to do, but we’ll see how everything bears out after this game.
” — Troy Polamalu
Polamalu is third on the Steelers with 81 tackles. He ranks among the NFL leaders with five forced fumbles and is tied for the Steelers’ lead in interceptions (two) and passes defensed (12).
He could be selected to his eighth Pro Bowl on Friday night when the teams are announced.
The Steelers, meanwhile, take faint playoff hopes into their regular-season finale Sunday at Heinz Field. They need to beat the Browns and also get wins from the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs to earn the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Polamalu said he is focused on the Browns and not what else needs to happen for the Steelers to make the postseason.
“I think this team has played much better without that [playoff] pressure on it,” Polamalu said. “Once we were out of the race or heard we were out of the race, I think this team has played much more relaxed and definitely done a better job. I just think it’s unfair to bring [playoffs] up now.”
- Covered Steelers for six years for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
- Author of five books, including “Heaven Sent: The Heather Miller Story,” which highlights the friendship a young girl with cancer developed with several Steelers players