CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Perhaps it's the patience of a strong safety, perhaps it's his passion for introspection, but Troy Polamalu can be counted upon to be the last to leave the Steelers' locker room, home or road, win or lose. Most often, he'll sit at his stall silently. He'll listen. He'll learn.
And once he's channeled it all, like some multi-gigabyte processor, what comes out is a powerfully honest, studied, broad-scope assessment.
So the best way, I've found, to get the fullest feel for this football team, even on a night when nearly everything goes above and beyond as it did in the 37-19 thrashing of the Panthers on this prime-time Sunday night at Bank of America Stadium, is to wait out the mane man.
Without asking the first syllable of my first question, then, I motioned over to Ike Taylor's empty stall, and Polamalu began.
"The strength of our organization has always been, I believe, in our closeness, the way that we'll stand up for one another."
Long Troy-like pause.
"It's a touchy business. We all want to be the guy. We all want to be out there. But we're all ready to step in when it's our opportunity. And the best way to look out for your brother is to step in there when he goes down."