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Thread: James Harrison, Troy Polamalu both could be defensive MVPs

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    Default James Harrison, Troy Polamalu both could be defensive MVPs

    James Harrison, Troy Polamalu both could be defensive MVPs

    By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY

    When it comes to league MVP candidates, there is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and everybody else.

    But when it comes to defensive MVP, there's a compelling debate building among two Pittsburgh Steelers playmakers — five-time Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year.

    Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's zone-blitz unit is allowing 15.2 points per game, covering for a struggling Steelers offense that has scored two touchdowns in its last 30 possessions.

    "It's the consistency of their performance that's very noticeable week in, week out," LeBeau said Tuesday, referencing Polamalu and Harrison. "They both have such great football instincts, that's their common characteristic."

    Polamalu's two interceptions in Sunday's 23-7 blowout of Cincinnati ties him for second in the league with six pickoffs.

    As punctuated by his game-changing strip sack of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in Pittsburgh's 13-10, Week 13 win that put the Steelers in the AFC North driver's seat, it's not only the plays Polamalu makes, but when he makes them.

    "Troy was (AFC) Defensive Player of the Week' last week and it wouldn't surprise me if he's named again because his plays were just outstanding against Cincinnati," LeBeau said.

    Then, there is the pro-Harrison debate.

    Steelers radio analyst Tunch Ilkin finds it remarkable that despite paying a player-high $125,000 in fines as part of the league's enforcement against dangerous hits, Harrison has put up eye-popping numbers.

    "James Harrison has 10 sacks, 22 quarterback pressures, he's caused six fumbles and has two interceptions," Ilkin said. "The real unfortunate part of all this fining stuff, it's overshadowing the fact he's having a monster year.

    "Not only is James Harrison the best defensive player in the game today. He's the most feared."

    LeBeau also praises Harrison's unseen impact such as changing blocking schemes.

    "He's always near the top in sacks, in caused fumbles and pressures in the league," LeBeau said. "What more can you do?"

    There are several other deserving candidates led by Green Bay Packers disruptive force Clay Matthews, Jr., second in the league with 121/2 sacks.

    There is also Miami Dolphins league sack-leader Cameron Wake, the former CFL standout with 14 sacks and three forced fumbles, Atlanta's John Abraham, Kansas City's Tamba Hali (11 sacks each) and Osi Umenyiora of the New York Giants with 10 sacks and a league-high eight forced fumbles.

    Would it be poetic justice if it wound up that Polamalu and Harrison were named co-defensive MVPs when the Associated Press balloting among a panel of 50 sportswriters and league analysts is held at season's end?

    "It absolutely would be fitting," LeBeau said. "I love them both.

    "I love them all. But these two have really produced."

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    Default Re: James Harrison, Troy Polamalu both could be defensive MVPs

    Troy Polamalu earns second straight player of the week award

    Posted by Michael David Smith on December 15, 2010, 10:30 AM EST

    This week’s AFC defensive player of the week is the same as last week’s AFC defensive player of the week.

    Steelers safety Troy Polamalu won the honor again this week after he picked off a Carson Palmer pass and returned it for a touchdown in the Steelers’ 23-7 win over the Bengals.

    “Troy had a tremendous break on the play,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Whether or not he was baiting Carson is debatable. It was a route that he was familiar with. I think T.O. was the intended receiver, and may have tripped or stumbled coming out of his break. I think that provided the necessary grass that Troy needed to come down hill on the ball and make the play. But no question, Troy was in great position and he had a great break on the ball.”

    Last week Polamalu received the honor for his game-changing strip-sack of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Polamalu has five player of the week awards in his career.
    Last edited by hawaiiansteeler; Dec-15-2010 at 12:34 PM.

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    Default Re: James Harrison, Troy Polamalu both could be defensive MVPs

    Troys game doesn't look to slow down. Unless injuries, I see Troy being an impact players for years to come.

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    Default Re: James Harrison, Troy Polamalu both could be defensive MVPs

    Jets’ Moore Is on the Side of the Steelers’ Harrison

    Published: December 14, 2010

    David Drapkin/Associated Press
    New York Jets guard Brandon Moore (65) says Harrison is being victimized

    The Jets are desperate to win and the Steelers cannot afford to lose Sunday at Heinz Field. Harrison will try to decimate the Jets’ offense. Moore and his linemates will attempt to slow the Steelers’ aggressive defense.

    “He plays on our left side, so I won’t see him a lot, unless they play a game and stunt or something,” Moore said Tuesday during a phone interview. Harrison has become the N.F.L.’s most-marked player in the league’s campaign this season to improve player safety — and perhaps increase scoring. Harsh fines — totaling $125,000 — have been levied against him. As an offensive player, Moore should be grateful. But as the Jets’ alternate player representative, he says Harrison is quite possibly being victimized.

    “It’s definitely an issue: how are they supposed to play football?” Moore said in defense of Harrison. “I understand you’re supposed to be protecting one of the most valuable assets the game has to offer in the quarterback, but you can’t take away from a guy’s ability to make plays and make game-changing plays. That’s the biggest fear, that these calls are changing games.”

    Moore has an even larger problem with the enormous fines being handed out, again primarily to defensive players. Harrison has received fines of $75,000, $20,000, $5,000 and $25,000 for hits deemed illegal.

    “Sure, players are making good money, but the fairness in how much is being fined is a little bit ridiculous,” Moore said. “I definitely feel the anger James and all the other players are having toward it. That’s something that’s going to have to be fixed.”

    Perhaps more than most other players, Moore identifies with Harrison’s frustration as a player who has overcome obstacles and who now, at the pinnacle of his career, faces another. Moore, like Harrison, began his N.F.L. career in obscurity. Moore was an undrafted free-agent defensive lineman from the University of Illinois. Harrison was an undrafted linebacker from Kent State.

    Scouts said Moore was too slow to be a defensive lineman and said Harrison was too short and too light to ever make it as an N.F.L. linebacker.

    “In training camp, I was the 13th defensive lineman on the depth chart,” Moore said. “I wasn’t getting any repetitions.” He was finally given an alternative: switch to offense or go home.

    He was cut.

    Harrison suffered a similar fate of being cut multiple times by the Steelers. He spent two years on and off the practice squad and was released three times. At different times, Moore and Harrison were sent to N.F.L. Europe to hone their skills.

    Moore improved his footwork as an offensive lineman with the Scottish Claymores, but was cut nonetheless when he returned to Jets training camp. Moore finally broke into the Jets’ starting lineup in 2004. Harrison was signed by Baltimore in 2003 but never played for them that season and was sent to the Rhein Fire. He was subsequently cut by the Ravens. He was re-signed by Pittsburgh in 2004 and finally had a breakout season in 2007.

    “Each step of the way, I’ve been the guy that has kind of been in the back, who just keeps working after practice, kept believing in myself,” Moore said. “I got sent home a couple times, was substitute teaching in between N.F.L. gigs,” he said. “It’s definitely been a struggle uphill.”

    On Tuesday, Moore’s charitable organization, the Moore Family Foundation, founded in 2004, hosted 200 children in a Christmas Carnival at the Boys and Girls Club in Newark. His motivation was twofold.

    “A lot of these kids are making a lot of adult decisions, and they forget how to be kids a lot of the time,” Moore said. “I wanted to make it more of a memorable day for them — cotton candy, games, rock climbing and things like that for some kids that really don’t get to have many fun days.”

    Moore’s deeper motivation was to drive home the message of hope and perseverance, a message that is also central to the theme of Harrison’s message to young people. Their careers epitomize that message.

    “There was never a point in my mind, even when I was sent home, living in my mother’s basement, substitute teaching, nobody calling — there was never a time when I didn’t believe,” Moore said.

    On Sunday, the Jets face a seemingly impossible mission: preventing Harrison’s surging Steelers from sending them to a third straight loss. For Moore, Sunday is just another opportunity to beat the odds.

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