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Steelers' Polamalu is pick as top defender

DALLAS -- Now that the voters have chosen Troy Polamalu over Clay Matthews for The Associated Press 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, the two stars can prove their worth against each other on the field.

In the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh safety Polamalu received 17 votes Monday from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who cover the league, edging Green Bay linebacker Matthews by a hair -- two votes.

Despite missing two games, in which Pittsburgh went 1-1, Polamalu became the sixth Steeler to win the award. He had seven interceptions this season along with 63 tackles, but made his mark with big plays. In a late-season victory at Baltimore, his leaping tackle forced a fumble that set up the winning touchdown.

That victory catapulted the Steelers to the AFC North title. Now, they are in the Super Bowl for the third time in six seasons, where they face Matthews and the Packers.

"I don't imagine their game plan changing over one player," Polamalu said. "We don't single out anybody. Anything we achieve here is done as a team, as a whole."

Added Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who finished third in the balloting with eight votes and won the award two years ago: "Troy brings this defense from a 'C' defense to an 'A' defense. He's someone that you have to account for in the secondary."

So much so that one opponent called the eighth-year pro the NFL's top player, regardless of position.

"With all due respect, I honestly think Troy Polamalu is probably the greatest player I've ever played with or even seen play in person," gushed Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, who was the MVP of Pittsburgh's 2009 Super Bowl win over Arizona. "Everybody has their one person they think is the greatest player. In my eyes, I think he's the greatest player I've ever played with."

Polamalu has had better statistical years than 2010, including the 2008 championship season and in 2005, when he had a career-high 91 tackles and three sacks as the Steelers won the title. He hasn't had any season where he made more big plays than in 2010.


Munchak gets first look

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have started their search to replace Jeff Fisher as head coach by staying in-house for their first interview with Hall of Fame lineman Mike Munchak.

The Titans confirmed they completed the interview of the offensive line coach Monday on Twitter. Munchak is considered the top candidate for the head coaching vacancy.

Munchak, who turns 51 in March, has worked for Titans owner Bud Adams since the then-Houston Oilers made him the eighth overall draft pick in 1982 out of Penn State. As a player, his career spanned blocking for fellow Hall of Famers Earl Campbell in a pounding run game to the run-and-shoot with Warren Moon.

Munchak played in 169 games for the then-Houston Oilers before he retired in 1994.

Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger also is expected to interview.


Around the league

*Trying to kick-start lagging labor talks as the Super Bowl fast approaches, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and union executive director DeMaurice Smith met Monday in New York and drew up a schedule for new negotiating sessions.

*The Bengals fired longtime offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, the first change in their coaching staff following a 4-12 season that is still reverberating through the franchise.

*Sal Alosi has resigned as strength and conditioning coach of the New York Jets, less than two months after he was caught tripping an opposing player during a punt return.

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