Troy Polamalu embraces Pittsburgh Steelers leadership role

The most famous hair in football is now flecked with more than a few strands of gray, and Troy Polamalu knows it.

Entering his 10th season, the perennial All-Pro Pittsburgh Steelers safety talks openly about being closer to the end of his Hall of Fame career than the beginning. The way he repeats the phrase "I'm trying to just take each day as it comes," it's almost as if it's on a loop.

But the veteran broke from tradition and showed up at OTAs this spring rather than work out in California.

"He could be back sitting on a water cooler hamming it up but he's not," secondary coach Carnell Lake said. "He's adding his input, 'This is what I see. You might want to see this or that.' "

Polamalu is one of the most experienced players left in the Steelers locker room after Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke, James Farrior and Hines Ward left the team.

Leading by example has never been an issue for Polamalu. Now, however, he knows his words and his off-the-field habits are just as important. It's one of the reasons he traveled cross-country for three weeks of OTAs, sacrificing valuable time with his family during the offseason so he could help the newcomers get a feel of what's required at a place that lives by the motto "the standard is the standard."

Polamalu brushes off the idea that he was trying to prove a point by being at OTAs. The way he figures it, it's better to get to know the new guys sooner rather than later.

"From a standpoint of understanding and getting to know the younger rookies, yeah (OTAs) helped," he said. "Usually (training camp) would be the second time I see them after a 2-3 day minicamp. I don't know (if it helps) the team camaraderie part. There's no formula for that either."

Polamalu has said that he doesn't plan on playing until his body doesn't let him anymore, but he signed a contract extension last September through 2014.

"You complain about being 31 but at 29 I was complaining about being 29," Polamalu said. "At 27 I was complaining about being 27. You just kind deal with the soreness as it comes."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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