When games are finished, he is neither. "You watch him play, and he's this true warrior," says Fitzpatrick. "And then you shake hands with him on the field afterward, and he talks so softly that you can hardly hear him."
In practice Polamalu plays not only with the starting defense but also, when possible, the scout team as well. "Twice as many reps to look at," he says. "It's like I've been playing 16 years instead of eight." It is rare duty for a superstar, served enthusiastically, and to hear the man tell it himself, desperately needed.
"You asked me about the freedom," says Polamalu. "What that really means is that I have more freedom than anybody else to make mistakes. And then my teammates cover them up. You wouldn't believe how many mistakes I make."
Even if that is true, the beauty lies in the chances taken and the moments made.
Peter King's breakdown of the four divisional-round matchups, at SI.com/nfl