The Steelers safety is the last person that a quarterback having the season of his life wants to see staring across the line. For a struggling quarterback like Sanchez, however, Polamalu represents nothing so much as the grim reaper. He's got a remarkable nose for the ball and an uncanny sense for what the offense is trying to do on every snap, two things that figured to make Sanchez a marked man come Sunday.
If he's been having those nightmares, he'll likely be able to sleep a little easier on Friday night. Word out of Pittsburgh is that Polamalu is going to be out of the lineup come Sunday, news that has to come as something even better than Ambien to members of the beleaguered Jets offense.
Since 2008, the Steelers allow almost 60 more yards and nearly 10 more points a game when Polamalu is out of the lineup. They're 5-6 in games he's missed, a steep dropoff from their 25-8 mark when Polamalu is playing heat-seeking missile.
A big loss and a big break for a team that desperately needs something to go its way. That's not to say that luck hasn't played some kind of role in what's happened over the last two weeks. Far from it. Every negative thing to hit the Jets has been a product of their own doing, but sometimes it takes some kind of outside event to jolt things back into working order.
For an offense that's threatening to make you wonder if it isn't just better to punt on first down, the absence of Troy Polamalu might be just that thing.
It's not the only thing that would work, however. Breaking a big run or hitting a long pass would do the trick as well because it would go a long way toward restoring confidence in the team's ability to make a play when they have the ball in their hands. Santonio Holmes could have done that by holding onto that pass in the end zone against the Dolphins last weekend, but he dropped the ball and the team dropped even further into the abyss.
Even with Polamalu in the lineup, Sunday's game didn't figure to be a blowout in either direction because the Steelers offense is only marginally better than the one the Jets have been throwing out on the field. Without Polamalu, though, the chances of the Jets shooting themselves in the foot offensively has dropped a bit and that's a big positive.
It's not enough to win them a game, obviously, but this isn't the season to look down your nose at any gifts.