There is no denying the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers safeties, Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, are getting older. Polamalu will soon turn 32 and Clark will turn 34 during the 2013 season. However, there is also no denying the fact that when healthy Clark and Polamalu are still a very good tandem at safety on the Steelers defense. Regardless of production though the Steelers have to start finding their replacements due to age and contract issues.
Clark’s contract ends following the 2013 season and the Steelers will likely look to replace him with a younger player. That player could be found during the 2013 NFL Draft this April. Clark is still playing at a high level and was one of the best players on the Steelers defense during the 2012 season, but a nearly 34 year old safety with an expiring contract is unlikely to return to Pittsburgh for the 2014 season.
Knowing that many fans and analysts believe that the Steelers will be targeting a safety in the early to middle rounds of the draft this year. That will give them a year to groom a replacement for Clark. Some also believe, however, that a replacement for Polamalu needs to be found during this off-season. Polamalu’s contract doesn’t expire until after the 2014 season, but some believe he could be a cap casualty during the 2014 off-season.
Others believe that it’s time to find a replacement for Polamalu because he spends too much time on the sidelines due to injury. During the 2012 season Polamalu was only able to play in seven games due to a calf injury that he suffered against the Denver Broncos in week 1. In 2009 Polamalu was only able to play in five games due to a knee injury.
If you take out those two seasons that Polamalu was hurt he has played in 14.75 games per season since entering the league in 2003. That number includes all 16 games in 2011, but does not include the fact that Polamalu has never missed a playoff game during his time in Pittsburgh. The only two seasons he was injured, 2009 and 2012, the Steelers failed to make the playoffs.
The team’s struggles without Polamalu could also be due to just that the absence of his presence on the field. In 2012 the Steelers defense accounted for only 10 interceptions. During the 2008 and 2010 seasons Polamalu accounted for a total of fourteen interceptions as well as a fumble recovery. His ability to create plays on defense is something the Steelers defense was sorely lacking in 2012, but if he can return healthy in 2013 that play-making ability may return.
Even with the 2009 and 2012 seasons included in Polamalu’s stats he has averaged 13 games per season during his career. Thats a pretty good amount of games for a player to play and quite a bit more than most fans would probably assume he has played. Polamalu’s reckless abandon on the field is always cause for concern and sometimes causes injury, but to call him injury prone is a stretch.