Coming into the offseason, it was hardly a secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers were looking to part with safety Troy Polamalu due to his declining output and still considerable cap cost. In fact, the Steelers made it known they would rather Polamalu retire than the team have to cut him.
On Thursday, the 33-year-old, eight-time Pro Bowler made it easier on the team he spent his entire NFL with. Polamalu announced his retirement in an interview with Jim Wexell of SteelCityInsider.net.
The Steelers had asked Polamalu to retire in February, but he resisted until the realization came upon him in church this week, the Holy Week of the Greek Orthodox faith.
“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.”
Along with Ed Reed, Polamalu has been credited with revolutionizing modern safety play in the NFL. At his best, Polamalu just seemed to intuit where the ball was going to be and got there faster than anyone else. That reputation for gambling on his reads, however, could lead to him being out of position and therefore responsible for big plays for the opposing offense, though that happened infrequently enough that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau let Polamalu operate with a lot of freedom.
The safety was one of the key components of a defense that carried two Steelers teams to Super Bowl titles and led a third to a Super Bowl appearance. Though there are many incredible highlights to go through, Polamalu’s single biggest moment was the pick-six to seal a victory in the 2008 AFC Championship Game over the Ravens.
Polamalu said in the interview that he didn’t seriously consider playing for another team as much as he weighed whether he wanted to continue playing. As what what he plans to do after football, he doesn’t seem to have immediate plans outside of spending time with his family and his church. Polamalu was always known for his faith and made sure to note some Christian numerology parallels to how his career played out, for better or worse.
Polamalu also came upon the realization that the numbers – age of 33 and 12 years service – agreed with him.
“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.”