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DALLAS (AP) — Now that the voters have chosen Troy Polamalu over Clay Matthews for The Associated Press 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, the two stars can prove their worth against each other on the field.
In the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh safety Polamalu received 17 votes Monday from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who cover the league, edging Green Bay linebacker Matthews by a hair — two votes.
Despite missing two games, in which Pittsburgh went 1-1, Polamalu became the sixth Steeler to win the award. He had seven interceptions this season along with 63 tackles, but made his mark with big plays. In a late-season victory at Baltimore, his leaping tackle forced a fumble that set up the winning touchdown.
That win catapulted the Steelers to the AFC North title. Now, they are in the Super Bowl for the third time in six seasons, where they face Matthews and the Packers.
“I don’t imagine their game plan changing over one player,” Polamalu said. “We don’t single out anybody. Anything we achieve here is done as a team, as a whole.”
Added Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who finished third in the balloting with eight votes and won the award two years ago: “Troy brings this defense from a ‘C’ defense to an ‘A’ defense. He’s someone that you have to account for in the secondary.”
So much so that one opponent called the eighth-year pro the NFL’s top player, regardless of position.
“With all due respect, I honestly think Troy Polamalu is probably the greatest player I’ve ever played with or even seen play in person,” gushed Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, who was the MVP of Pittsburgh’s 2009 Super Bowl win over Arizona. “Everybody has their one person they think is the greatest player. In my eyes, I think he’s the greatest player I’ve ever played with.”
Polamalu has had better statistical years than 2010, but he hasn’t had any season where he made more big plays than in 2010.
That fit perfectly with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s claim that Polamalu is the most versatile defensive back he’s ever worked with. And LeBeau has been involved with the NFL for about a half-century and is in the Hall of Fame.