With just days until the ‘Class of 2020’ is announced, and those privileged enough to earn their Gold Jackets rightfully take their place in Canton, Stuart Taylor looks at the case for Troy Polamalu, and why the former Steeler deserves to take his place amongst the elite.
Match made in heaven?
Troy Polamalu and the Pittsburgh Steelers may have seemed like a match made in heaven. However, it is a marriage that almost did not take place. Fresh off his performance as Super Bowl XXXVII MVP, it was Dexter Jackson that Steelers brass had identified as the man they wanted at safety as they chased their first Super bowl since Super Bowl XIV. However, he eventually backed out of their verbal agreement and made the switch to the Cardinals. The Steelers then switched to plan B – and what a plan B it turned out to be.
That plan B was a safety out of USC by the name of Troy Polamalu. A stand out at the collegiate level, the Steelers identified his as their top target in the 2003 draft. Drafting at 27, they knew they had to trade up to grab their guy. They found a willing partner in the Kansas City Chiefs – switching 1st round picks, as well as giving up a 3rd and 6th round picks.
A decade of dominance
What followed was more than a decade of dominance by one of the greatest players ever to play the safety position. 2x Super Bowls, 8x Pro Bowls, 4x First team All-Pro, 2x Second team all-Pro, NFL Defensive Player of the Year 2010, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team. That’s quite the resume. But what made Troy Polamalu so good for so long?
Polamalu was a student of the game. He was known to study tape of upcoming opponents with fervour and detail. His instincts often went against what coaches were calling, often to their chagrin, but more often than not Polamalu was right.
One such example occurred during the AFC championship against the Baltimore Ravens in 2009 when Polamalu picked off a Joe Flacco pass, returning it 40 yards for a pick six, culminating in the Steelers heading to the Super Bowl.
“He wasn’t supposed to be where he was. He just made a natural adjustment to the coverage because of something he felt in reading both the Quarterback and the receiver’s depth that allowed him to make that play”
Kevin Colbert, Steelers GM
Off the field dedication
It is not only Polamalu’s onfield contributions to Pittsburgh that endeared him to many. Off the field he is as dedicated as he was on it. Finding someone to say a bad word about Troy Polamalu the man is very dfficult. He was active in the local community. He visited the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh every Friday after practice.
His thoughtfulness towards others can be seen in the recent ill-fated AAF league, of which Polamalu ran player relations. Due to the system put in place by Polamalu, plauers still received workman’s compensation benefits when the league dissolved.
Following his retirement in 2014, this is Troy Polamalu’s first crack at entering the Hall of Fame. For me, he should be a first ballot inductee. He is one of the greatest to have played his position. 2 Super Bowl rings and a stack of other accolades add weight to his claims. However, it is the reverence in which he is held by both opponents and teammates held Polamalu that stand out.
And anyone who can claim to have a Guinness World Record for the ‘highest insured hair’, deserves all the accolades heading his way.
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