By April Fool’s day 2003 Bill Cowher had coached the Pittsburgh Steelers for over a decade and had a resume that would be the envy of the vast majority of those to ever don the NFL head coach’s head set.
- 7 AFC Central Division Titles
- 8 Playoff appearances
- 4 Conference Championships at Three Rivers Stadium or Heinz Field
- 1 AFC Championship
One thing still eluded the Chin, however.
- IT was of course a Lombardi Trophy and the Super Bowl ring that comes with it.
By April 1st 2006, Bill Cowher was no longer anyone’s fool. He that ring and the Steelers had Lombardi number 5 thanks to Super Bowl XL. That Cowher made that accomplishment after the arrival of Polamalu and Miller is no coincidence.
- YES, the Steelers did also draft Ben Roethlisberger in the intervening year, and truth be told that move was probably more important to securing One for the Thumb.
But Polamalu and Miller’s contributions were vital. Look no further than Miller’s contributions during the first quarter of the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff game for evidence. Polamalu’s highlight reels from 2004 and 2005 speak for themselves.
On the eve of 2014’s free agent signing period, the Pittsburgh Steelers extended the deal of both Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller, and gain themselves precious cap space in the process.
I am thankful and blessed to be in a position to play my entire career in Pittsburgh
— Troy Polamalu (@tpolamalu) March 5, 2014
Both were reported to be three year deals, and both all but ensure that the two men will finish their time in Pittsburgh.
Expanding on the Extensions
While both extensions were for the same amount of time and both provided salary cap relief for the Steelers, they’re implications are different.
Heath Miller is 32 and is about 15 months away from the ACL injury he suffered in late 2012. Miller returned during the loss in London, and provided the offense an immediate boost. With that said however, his performance was shaky at times, and he suffered some uncharacteristic drops.
- But ACL injuries take time to fully heal.
Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Rod Woodson told Jim Wexell in his book Men of Steel that, although he played a full season in 1996, the ACL he tore on opening day 1995 was still not 100% until 1997 or so.
Expect Miller to return to full form in 2014. At age 32 Miller is closer to “Life’s Work” (to use the Chuck Noll phrase) than the beginning, but he still has a lot of good years. Good years that will be played in a Steelers uniform.
- Although Polamalu is the same age as Miller, only Polamalu is a little different.
Steelers Nation is well aware of Polamalu’s injury history. Any number of a cold, hard, calculating salary cap analyses could end with the Steelers cutting Polamalu.
- Thos conclusions would have been reached in Err.
As observed in his Steelers salary cap bubble profile, today’s Troy Polamalu might not be the Polamalu of 2008 or 2010. But a healthy Polamalu in 2014 is better than just about anyone else. And yes, given his history Polamalu’s signing is another risk.
But it is a risk the Steelers are right to take.
Allen to Return Too
The Steelers didn’t finish with cutting Brown, Brown and Foote, and resigning Polamalu and Miller. In 2013 Will Allen was the “one that got away.” Here in 2014 the Steelers made him their fourth signing, as Allen could compete for a starting job in spite of his veteran minimum salary.
- With Allen locked down, Ryan Clark‘s departure from Pittsburgh is all but official confirmed.