It was third down for Baltimore late in the game two weeks ago against Pittsburgh. By converting, the Ravens could run the remaining time off the clock and secure the win.
Terrell Suggs, a Ravens linebacker watching from the sideline, noticed a Steeler safety creeping forward, threatening to blitz Joe Flacco, the quarterback.
"I hope we have a plan," Suggs said he thought. He recalled: "I just didn't feel good when I saw that hair on the line."
The distinctive hairstyle belonged to Troy Polamalu, whose mane is familiar to non-football fans thanks to his commercial endorsements of a popular anti-dandruff shampoo.
With eight years of curly growth flying out of the back of his helmet, Polamalu stormed Flacco and induced a fumble that was recovered by the Steelers. They then scored their only touchdown for a 13-10 win.
The forced turnover has become routine for the unshorn one. And in the previous game, his late diving interception at the one-yard line saved the Steelers in a 16-13 victory over Buffalo.
Polamalu resumed his heroics last Sunday with a 45-yard interception return in the second quarter that awakened the slumbering Steelers against Cincinnati and led to a 23-7 win.
Though aggravating a calf injury on the play, he limped through the rest of the game, then capped it with his second take-away on the final play.
"That's Troy," Ryan Clark, his teammate and fellow safety, said. "You can't keep him down. He wants to be out there for his guys."
Polamalu is hardly new to the centre stage. The Pro Football Hall of Fame should make room for him some day. Extra room, assuming he keeps the clippers stored.
He could have coasted to stardom on athleticism alone. But, no.
"Most guys are playing pool or ping-pong at lunch and after practice," Larry Foote, the linebacker, said. "Troy is on his computer, studying the offence. He knows every formation."
Mike Tomlin, the coach, said: "When we need a play, he provides it."
Of Samoan ancestry, Polamalu subscribes to the belief that long tresses build inner strength for battle.
The shampoo company bought a million dollars worth of publicity by supposedly insuring the locks for that amount with Lloyd's of London. It might have been a stunt, though grabbing a fistful of mop is not subject to a penalty flag.
Polamalu said he takes 45 minutes to prepare his hair. After a recent game, reporters who had interviewed other Steelers hovered around his vacant locker when Tomlin approached and said: "Y'all waiting for Troy washing his hair?" He turned and shouted toward the showers: "Take your time."
No rush, unless there is an opposing quarterback to disrupt.