Life in the NFL is a myriad of moving parts, a cacophony of adjustments where defenses change alignments, coverages adapt to tendencies and players change positions.

It is not uncommon, for example, for a defensive end in college to be moved to outside linebacker in the NFL, a practice the Steelers have embraced for years. Nor is it out of the ordinary for a cornerback in the latter stages of his career to move to safety, something Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott each did in their Hall of Fame careers. Tackles move to guard, tight ends become wide receivers, quarterbacks become running backs. Move, move, move.

But it is not every day when a highly decorated safety who has been selected to seven Pro Bowls moves to linebacker. Inside linebacker, no less, where the traffic and confluence of 300-pound-plus linemen is at its greatest and nastiest.

But, then, Troy Polamalu is not your every-day player.

"That's why Troy is Troy," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, a Hall of Fame cornerback for 14 years with the Detroit Lions. "He's been one of the better defenders in this league for a long time, and that's one of the reasons. He studies hard, and he can take that knowledge and apply it instantly on the field."

Make no mistake, Polamalu remains as the Steelers' strong safety, a player still capable of making splash plays such as the 19-yard interception return for touchdown a week ago against the Miami Dolphins in which he -- and his flopping hair -- went hurtling across the pylon.

But, in the past month, he has been playing almost as much at linebacker because of the frequency with which the Steelers have been using a dime defensive package that features six defensive backs.

In that package, Polamalu moves to inside linebacker, replacing rookie Vince Williams, Cortez Allen comes in as the nickel back and veteran Will Allen takes over for Polamalu at safety. The Steelers used that package for 45 of 60 snaps against the Dolphins. It has become so much of their regular defense that all six defensive backs are introduced as starters before the game.

"I like being wherever the action is," Polamalu said.

At 5 feet 10 inches and 215 pounds, Polamalu is not your prototypical linebacker. But the Steelers are trying to take advantage of his explosiveness and ability to disrupt plays in the backfield in an attempt to create more turnovers and help stem the tide of big plays that has tormented their defense.

That will be put to the test tonight against the AFC North Division-leading Cincinnati Bengals (9-4), who are tied for the AFC lead with 13 pass plays of 40 yards or longer.