End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Troy Polamalu
Experience: 12 Years
Was this the last go ‘round in the black and gold for former All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu? The smart money seems to be pointing that way, with most of the prominent beat writers covering the team stating that they do not expect him to be back with the Steelers next season, whether he retires or is released.
Of course, retirement is a subject that Polamalu has openly discussed for a few seasons now, and each passing year only brings us closer to the point of that reality finally coming.
How the soon to be 34-year old is able to perform on the field, of course, will factor into the decision-making about his future, both for himself and for his employer. So even if he doesn’t retire, he may find himself a free agent before long.
Certainly, 2014 was far from Polamalu at his peak, with very few candidates to enter his Hall of Fame video montage. Of course, injuries played their part in this as well, as two separate incidents during the season knocked him out for two games each.
Polamalu certainly is not the player that he once was, particularly when it comes to coverage, as he has increasingly become an in the box player, playing better moving forward than in reverse. In fact, overall, his run defense was still pretty strong in 2014—he’s long been a Band-Aid for leaky run defenses for the Steelers.
But the veteran simply isn’t the playmaker he once was, and that shows up both on tape and the stats sheet. He failed to record a single interception, and only contributed to causing a fumble while the quarterback was being sacked.
What’s more, he was penalized a number of times last season, seven times in all with one being declined or offsetting. He also missed nearly a dozen tackles, despite missing a quarter of the year due to injury.
Could Polamalu probably still be a decent to solid starter? I wouldn’t count against that, provided that he could stay healthy. But can the Steelers afford to pay him what he’s on the books for if he can no longer play the way that he once did? Perhaps another team would be more interested in compensating him in that manner.