Often viewed as one of, if not the greatest safety to ever lace up his cleats, recently retired Troy Polamalu, barring a Michael Jordan-esque comeback, will dance into the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot lock in 2020, right? Fans in Steelers Nation will clamor yes, that he absolutely makes it in his first year of eligibility, there just can’t be any other possible outcome. However, considering some of the other standout names on the waiting list, he may not make it in as soon as some would think.
He does have a lot going in his favor though, as many of the plays he made of the football field can often be summed up using words like uncanny or breathtaking. On several occasions, it was almost as if he was the 12th member of the offense and knew the snap cadence, as he hurled himself like a kamikaze jet pilot over the top of the offensive line to bring down the quarterback. It almost seemed as if he was some sort of cyborg, a silent assassin who could peak into the future, seeming to know the snap count even better than the quarterback himself.
However, he has many road blocks in his way too and one of them is a very familiar face from within the division, with whom the basis of many conversations were had as to who the best safety in the game was, Polamalu or the Ravens’ Ed Reed? Reed has one Super Bowl ring compared to Polamalu’s two, and Reed has 64 career picks to Polamalu’s 32. However, one cannot compare the two as comparing, for instance, the same kinds of apples. Reed may have been a McIntosh apple, excelling better when the ball is in the air. On the contrary, Polamalu could be viewed as a Granny Smith apple, at his best in a rover type of role near the line of scrimmage, supporting the run and blitzing.
Also, there’s a detriment, not only to Polamalu but Reed as well, in the fact that there’s only 24 defensive backs total in Canton, and of that total, only 6 of them are classified as safeties. Many are looked at as a hybrid, capable of playing both corner and safety position, and the most recent inductee was Aeneas Williams back in 2014. There is a group of safeties who are currently in line, including Brian Dawkins, Darren Woodson and John Lynch. Polamalu and Reed are clearly a cut above those names but there are other premium positions waiting in line as well, including receivers Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Tim Brown. Then is also recently-retired skill guys like running back LaDainian Tomlinson and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Then, we have the quarterback conundrum, with legendary gunslinger Brett Favre likely pole vaulting the entire field to be elected in on his very first year of eligibility. Kurt Warner is also one who waits in the wings, and it could be at the expense of Polamalu.
One thing is very clear though and that’s the HOF committee’s stance on not only the players on-field play, but off it as well. Polamalu is without a doubt one of those most respected and likable guys across the entire NFL landscape. He is revered by teammates and foes alike for his genuine good guy persona. For as many wars as have taken place between the Steelers and Ravens, there was always that constant respect by Baltimore for him, as a person and a player.
“I am a man of few words, and so is Troy, but I do know I’ll tell my children and grandchildren I was lucky enough to play in these games, and lucky enough to play against Troy so many times,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said, according Peter King of SI.com. “Troy’s an example of the right way to do things, on the field and off the field. Such a great competitor on every play, and he treats everyone the right way. That’s the right way to handle yourself.”
Polamalu will get in, that’s pretty much a given. The question we must ask ourselves is will it be sooner or later?