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2018 Offseason Questions: Will Polamalu Be A 1st-Ballot HOFer?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: Will Troy Polamalu be enshrined into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot?

As you might have seen it noted somewhere around the internet, it was three years ago yesterday that former Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu retired after spending 12 seasons with the team from 2003 to 2014. He helped lead the team to a pair of Super Bowls, and a third appearance, during which season he was named the Defensive Player of the Year.

There is still a couple of years to go, but the discussion has already been out there before he even retired. It’s a simple question: will Polamalu be a first-ballot Hall of Famer?

An eight-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro (four first-team nods), a member of the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team, there is no disputing that he was one of the greatest players at his position of his era. But that doesn’t mean he will go in on the first ballot. He will definitely be enshrined at some point, but I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that it will be right away.

There are not a ton of true safeties that have actually made it into the Hall of Fame, and some of them have had difficulty getting there despite the lack of a logjam at the position, which we frequently see at wide receiver or edge defender.

According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s own website, there are only seven players listed exclusively as a safety in the list of their enshrinees. Some players such as Aeneas Williams and Ronnie Lott started out as cornerbacks, though in Lott’s case he still spent the majority of his career at safety.

The most recent enshrinee at the safety position is Brian Dawkins. A nine-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro (five first-team nods), member of the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team, the only player in NFL history with at least 25 sacks, interceptions, and forced fumbles.

There are a lot of similarities between Dawkins’ resume on paper and Polamalu’s. He made it in his second year of eligibility. That’s a good sign for Polamalu getting in quickly, though not necessarily immediately. The better barometer will be Ed Reed, who I believe is eligible next year. If he gets in on the first ballot, so does Polamalu.

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