Troy Poalmalu’s decision to retire came as no surprise to anyone in Steelers Nation. Yes, Ike Taylor might have said Troy is training as if he’s playing next year. There might have been rumblings about Polamalu being dissatisfied with Mike Tomlin and logging to reunite with Dick LeBeau.
- But at the end of the day, Polamalu wasn’t going anywhere.
Seriously. Polamalu wasn’t looking for nor was he going to get, nor did he need another payday. After all, this was the same player who admitted he didn’t even know how much he made at the end of the 2013 season.
And for all of the talk from Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, the Steelers had left the door open to a possible return by Polamalu in 2015, which is why the Steelers resigned Will Allen before immediately after Polamalu made it official.
Seeing Troy Polamalu retire marks the end of an era in Pittsburgh in a way Steelers Nation probably hasn’t seen before. With Troy Polamalu gone, now only Ben Roethlsiberger, Heath Miller, James Harrison and Greg Warren remain from the Super Bowl XL team. Dick LeBeau too is gone.
- Polamalu arrived in 2003. LeBeau returned in 2004. The Steelers defense led the team to a 15-1 finish in 2004 in won the Super Bowl in 2005. That’s no conscience.
Troy Polamalu was a true Steelers legend and he’s earned the right to have in name discussed along side the likes of Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris or Terry Bradshaw. Seeing him leave is poignant.
- But Polamalu made the right decision.
Polamalu’s play has been declining slowly, but steadily for the past several season. No, that doesn’t devalue the contribution’s he made in recent years – he was still one of the best. And like the true great ones, he adapted as age took its toll. By 2013 he wasn’t ball hawking the way he once did, but he made his impact felt in the form of forced fumbles and tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
- The notion of getting “ just one more season” out of Polamlau is a appealing, but fool hardy.
Certain players at certain positions can pull that off. Jerome Bettis did it in 2004 and again in 2005 and added to his Hall of Fame credentials in the process. Hines Ward probably could have done it in 2012 if he’d have been willing to return as a 4th receiver. Brett Keisel did it in 2014. And Steelers Nation is finger its rosary beads hoping that James Harrison does it in 2015.
But you can’t slip a safety into a Bettis like role the way you can at other positions. It just doesn’t work.
As Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell, pointed out in early March:
Troy Polamalu is done.
Not that he went out like Willie Mays the Met. He was playing OK before taking a blast in the back of the knee during a weird play just before halftime against the Baltimore Ravens. He hit a running back but the back didn’t go down. Instead the back pinballed into Stephon Tuitt and then back into Troy’s leg as Troy was trying to get up. The hit sprained Polamalu’s MCL and he left the game, a game the Steelers won 43-23.
Wexell’s assessment is correct. Polamalu’s efforts in 2014 were respectable, but it was equally clear that the magic was gone and there was nothing more poignant than the reality that the Steelers secondary and its defense played its best football at the close of the season with Polamalu out of the line up.
The fact is that a Polamalu decision to return in 2015 could have very well ended up looking a lot like Ike Taylor’s final starts upon his return from injury. That would not have bene a pretty sight.
- Thankfully, it is a sight that Steelers Nation will never see nor have to try to forget.
The great ones go gracefully because they know when its time to hang up. And by any measure, Troy Polamalu is one of the great ones.