Troy Polamalu's clock to Canton can start now. The definitive Pittsburgh Steeler of the team's recent titles has decided to retire, the team announced on Friday. Polamalu first told the Herald-Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) Thursday about his decision.
"I did not seriously consider playing elsewhere," Polamalu said in a phone interview with Jim Wexell. "It was just whether or not I wanted to play."
We can't say that Polamalu re-defined the safety position because he was one of a kind. It's not like there are youth coaches out there teaching kids to play like Polamalu because his unique skill set would be impossible to recreate. Who else could have made leaping over the line of scrimmage a signature move?
An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, Polamalu was one of the most dominant safeties in league history during his four seasons as a first-team All-Pro player. He won the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year by mixing big plays, run stopping, well-timed blitzes and a rare instinct for knowing what opposing players would do.
Polamalu connected with fans in Pittsburgh and beyond because he played with an abandon that was impossible to miss. He told Wexell that he knew this was the right decision in church this week, the Holy Week of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Steelers wanted Polamalu to retire earlier in the offseason, but the team carried his cap hit to give him time to make a decision, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
"It's all about family," said Polamalu. "I live here in Pittsburgh now, and since the end of the season I've had a chance to enjoy my family on a level I never had before. It was awesome."
Injuries sapped some of Polamalu's trademark speed in recent years and his gambling style of defense resulted in more long throws getting past him. When he was at his peak, Polamalu had to be accounted for by the opposition on every snap.
Polamalu's trademark play was the AFC-sealing pick six against Joe Flacco after the 2008 season. Two weeks later, the Steelers won their second Super Bowl in four seasons. Other Steelers defenders like Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, James Farrior, Larry Foote and Casey Hampton all excelled on both title squads, with Polamalu the spinning center of it all.
The Steelers will save salary cap space following Polamalu's decision, and know they need to get younger in the secondary. Shamarko Thomas is a candidate to start, and safety should be a priority in the upcoming draft. The Steelers know they won't find another Polamalu.
"He's one of those once-in-a-generation type of a guy, man," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told NFL Media's Steve Wyche at the recent NFL Annual Meeting. "He's a different guy. The way he views the game is different. The way he plays the game is different. He is unique. And I'm sure you'll see great players in that position in the future, but none will do it quite like he does it."
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