The Pittsburgh Steelers have two games remaining in their 2014 regular season and should they fail to make the playoffs, there’s a chance that those final two contests could be the last ones played by safety Troy Polamalu.
During a Thursday interview on 93.7 The Fan, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was asked to give his gut feeling on whether or not Polamalu would return in 2015 for a 13th season.
“Oh, I would be surprised,” Bouchette said. “I think he’s done, I really do. He looks heavier, I don’t know what he weighs. He’s still active around the ball, but his reactions aren’t as good as they used to be. He doesn’t cover. They try to not to let him cover. Mike Tomlin told that to the new partners that they have. He told them that in August, that they didn’t want to have him cover that much. So, no, I think that this is it for Troy.”
Due to his contract being extended two years prior to the start of this season in order to free up 2014 salary cap space, Polamalu is now under contract through the 2016 season. However, being as his extension didn’t include any new guaranteed money outside of $6.75 million of his previously scheduled 2014 base salary that was turned into a signing bonus, the Steelers will clear $3.75 million in 2015 salary cap space should Polamalu retire or be released.
If Polamalu is designated a post June 1st release, instead, the Steelers will save $6 million in 2015 salary cap space and then they’ll be left with $2.25 million in dead money to account for in 2016.
If Polamalu is ultimately released during the offseason, Bouchette said Wednesday that he doesn’t believe anyone has to worry about him ending his career in another team’s uniform.
“I think Troy has a lot of pride and will realize that he just doesn’t have it anymore,” Bouchette said of that possibly happening. “They all lose it. The great ones all lose it. Someone described it as watching Willie Mays and the end of his career and it might not be that bad, but it’s like watching Hines Ward at the end of his career.
“I just think that this will be it for him one way or another. I really do. I think that they’ll let him retire and I think that he’ll come to the conclusion that that’s the best way to go.”
One would think that the heir to Polamalu’s strong safety position is already on the roster as the Steelers drafted safety Shamarko Thomas in the fourth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Thomas, however, has yet to play a snap on defense this season and barring injuries to Polamalu and veteran safety Will Allen in whatever winds up being left of this season, that’s not likely to change.
As usual, Polamalu isn’t likely to let anyone know what his future plans are between now and the end of the season. For that matter, while he’s more than likely already given it some thought, he’s probably not entirely sure what his decision will be until this season is completely behind him.
While we all hope that the Steelers have several more games left in their 2014 season, if you decide to attend either of their two final home games at Heinz Field, I would highly suggest that you wear your No. 43 Polamalu jersey if you own one as it could very well wind up being the last two times that you see him playing an NFL game in Pittsburgh.