Polamalu leads the Steelers with six interceptions, one of which he has returned for a touchdown. He also has a sack and a fumble recovery to go with 62 tackles.
That's all the incentive the Steelers need to play their second game in five days, a challenge for a beaten-up team regardless of its opponent.
"This guy has intuition, has innate awareness and ability," coach Mike Tomlin told the team's official website Tuesday. "He probably trusts his more than anybody else I've ever been around. When he makes a decision to take a calculated risk, he's 10 toes in on it. He's full steam ahead."
The Steelers, who rank 24th in pass defense in the NFL, often have trouble defending teams with strong passing games, but that's certainly not Carolina. The Panthers' average of 149.3 passing yards is 32 per game fewer than any other team, and rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen has thrown seven interceptions but just two touchdown passes.
What the Steelers probably worry about most is another injury to a key starter, just when they're hopeful Polamalu and defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) might be healthy for their first playoff game.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.