PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu wants to remain in black and gold the remainder of his career.
How much green it will take, and how quickly he'll start to see it, is still up in the air.
Polamalu said Wednesday contract talks with the Steelers are between his agent, Marvin Demoff, and the team. The 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is in the final season of a five-year deal that will pay him about $6.4 million this season.
The perennial Pro Bowler has said he'd love to stay, but limited salary cap space could be an obstacle to getting a deal done before the season.
Either way, it's unlikely Polamalu would leave considering his fondness for the team, and the city, and the organization's habit of keeping homegrown stars.
The Steelers have already signed linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley to lengthy extensions and return all 11 defensive starters from a unit that led the league in points against a year ago.
Woodley said last month it's only natural that Polamalu is next in line to get a new contract, but the soft-spoken safety would rather not do his negotiating in public.
"I'll leave all contract discussions between the Steelers and my agent," Polamalu said. "It's just better that way, so that things don't get misconstrued."
The 30-year-old is coming off the best season of his career, finishing with seven interceptions, 64 combined tackles and a sack. Yet he was slowed by an Achilles injury late in the season and admits he wasn't 100 percent during the playoffs or the 31-25 loss to Green Bay in the Super Bowl.
He's paced himself during training camp, though he showed flashes of brilliance in a preseason win over Philadelphia three weeks ago, intercepting Michael Vick and going on a freewheeling return that included a fake pitch and an abrupt ending after Vick drilled Polamalu in the knees.
The Steelers rarely negotiate during the season, but would likely give Polamalu the franchise tag next year while it works on a new deal for him, a tactic they used this spring before re-signing Woodley.
If the talks are weighing on him, it doesn't show. He's too concerned with Sunday's opener against the Baltimore Ravens. Polamalu demurred when asked who's the best safety in the league, himself or Baltimore star Ed Reed.
"I've always considered Ed Reed to be the best safety in the NFL and perhaps ever," Polamalu said. "So, we can clear that up right away. But the truth about it is that defenses always come down to how the secondary plays. So, whatever defense plays best in this game, usually comes out with the win."
The Steelers should be at full strength as both Ike Taylor (broken left thumb) and Bryant McFadden (hamstring) practiced on Wednesday. Yet it's clear Polamalu is the defense's biggest playmaker, his instincts have a habit of bringing him in contact with the ball with stunning regularity.
Taylor has been so impressed during camp he felt the need to declare "Troy's back." Actually, Taylor said, he never went anywhere in the first place.
"Sure, he missed a couple games," Taylor said, "but the games he was in there, he had like seven picks in six games.
"So, Troy is Troy."