It's been a tough day of news for the people of Three Rivers. On the same day that star running back Le'Veon Bell was suspended for three games, one of the greatest defensive players of this generation is hanging up his cleats. Per multiple reports, longtime Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is retiring from the NFL. The former USC Trojan suited up in Black and Yellow for 12 years and was a defensive force for the majority of his career.
Polamalu initially spoke to The Herald-Standard as to how and why he came to this decision:
"It’s all about family," said Polamalu in a phone interview. "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."
"I did not seriously consider playing elsewhere," Polamalu said. "It was just whether or not I wanted to play. I had talked to a lot of people about what I should do with my situation, and what they kept saying back to me, and which was not a sufficient reason, was ‘Troy, you played 12 years in the NFL, you won Super Bowls, won individual awards. There’s nothing left to prove. You have a legacy.’ And I just kept saying, ‘First of all, I don’t care about a legacy. Second of all, I play the game because I enjoy it.’ That’s the reason to keep playing.
"Like I said, what it came down to was definitely family. If I’m in my fourth year, fifth year, even if I’m in my 10th year, I’m playing in Alaska. But when I started this process and started to debate whether I should come back or should I play, that was kind of the sign for me to say ‘Whoa, if you’re just even debating it maybe you shouldn’t play anymore,’ because what I do know about this game is it takes a lot –a lot – of commitment just to be an average player."
"Thirty-three is obviously significant because of Christ being 33; and 12 years, 12 apostles," he said. "I’m not superstitious by any means but I always thought that if I played 12 years and retire from football at 33 and give my life and give my body and give my blood to this game, I think that would be a pretty significant landmark in my life."
Polamalu came out in the 2003 draft and was selected No.16 overall, while his college teammate, quarterback Carson Palmer, went No.1 to the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. Palmer and Polamalu dueled twice a year for the next eight years, with the Steelers defensive back often getting the better of the match-ups.
To say that the long-haired star had an impressive NFL career would be an understatement. Polamalu was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, a five-time All-Pro and was also the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. He was a critical cog in the two Super Bowl victories that the Steelers had in the 2000s.
Unfortunately, Polamalu experienced a wide variety of injuries in recent years. Since 2009, he had played all 16 games in just two of those six seasons. Even still, Polamalu should be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee and will go down as one of the best Steelers of all-time, as well as one of the league's top defensive backs to ever play in the NFL.