Titans have to play their cards right when facing Polamalu

Without a doubt, the term most often used this week to describe Troy Polamalu has been ‘wild card.’

Tennessee Titans players and coaches are at once wary and complimentary of the ability of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ safety to anticipate, improvise and create havoc outside of the requirements of whatever defense is called. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains on Thursday was the latest to chime in.

“He’s the ultimate wild card in that he’s a really good football player, he’s got a great sense of awareness, his recognition as good as anyone in the NFL that I’ve ever seen,” Loggains said. “It creates some issues for the quarterback … because you’re never exactly sure what he’s going to do.”

The approach has worked well enough that Polamalu has appeared in seven Pro Bowls and has been a first-team All-Pro four times. From the Steelers’ perspective, though, he might just be their trump card … at least when it comes to playing the Titans.

Polamalu did not play in last season’s meeting, a 26-23 Titans’ victory in Week 6. Each of the previous three years he not only played, he stood out and each time the Steelers came out on top.

A look at the last four games in the series and what Polamalu did:

• Sept. 10, 2009: Pittsburgh 13, Tennessee 10 (OT): Polamalu was credited with six tackles (all solo), one tackle for a loss, intercepted one pass and broke up two others.

• Sept. 19, 2010: Pittsburgh 19, Tennessee 11: Polamalu was credited with six tackles, three tackles for loss and intercepted a pass, one of six takeaways by the Steelers’ defense.

• Oct. 9, 2011: Pittsburgh 38, Tennessee 17: Polamalu was credited with nine tackles and three passes defensed.

• Oct. 11, 2012: Tennessee 26, Pittsburgh 23: Polamalu did not play because he was injured.

“He definitely makes them a much better football team when he’s out there because it seems like he takes risks and usually he’s right,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Usually he finds a way to make a play more so than he does lose when he takes a gamble. The thing about him is he takes smart gambles. He understands their system so well that he understands when he can take his opportunities, take his shots knowing that he has someone that can cover him up if he is wrong or doesn’t make the play.”