As much as they are the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest rivals, it’s hard not to have a begrudging respect for the Baltimore Ravens’ history of quality defensive play, and high-level defensive performers, often concerning the defensive line. And one of the greatest defensive linemen that the Ravens have ever had recently announced that he would be retiring from the NFL.
Haloti Ngata was the 12th-overall pick by Baltimore in the 2006 NFL draft, and it didn’t take him too long to establish himself as one of the top interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Though playing at around 340 pounds, his rugby background aided in his surprising athleticism for his size.
The big man would announced his retirement on his own terms, doing so on his birthday via an Instagram post in which he is standing atop Mount Killimanjaro, holding a banner that reads, “I’m retiring from the top”. The logos of the three teams for which he played also adorned the chapter-closing fabric.
Ngata spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Ravens, making the Pro Bowl five years in a row from 2009 to 2013. He would also make the All-Pro team five years in a row from 2008 to 2012, twice representing on the first team and three times on the second.
In March of 2015, the Ravens traded Ngata to the Detroit Lions for a fourth- and fifth-round draft pick, but his final four seasons—with in Detroit and a final with the Philadelphia Eagles—would be marred by injury, which included spending most of 2017 on injured reserve with a torn biceps.
The Tongan-American finishes his career having played 180 games, registering 325 tackles with 32.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, five interceptions, 38 passes defensed, one touchdown, and…one broken nose of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Of course, as soon as you saw the headline you knew I would be getting to that at some point. Ngata’s hand slipped between the opening of the quarterback’s facemask, shattering the bones in his nose, which was visibly mangled and required surgery.
It came very early in the game, just a few minutes into the first quarter on third and eight from near midfield. The officials missed what should have obviously been a roughing the passer penalty, forcing the Steelers to punt. They would still go on to win 13-10 on a game-winning touchdown reception by running back Isaac Redman late in the fourth quarter.
Roethlisberger would not miss a snap in that game, completing 22 of 38 pass attempts for 253 yards with the one touchdown and an interception. That’s really not too bad when you’re playing against one of the top defenses in the league with a busted nose.