The Pittsburgh Steelers well underway with the offseason workouts at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the heart of the offseason, where hope springs eternal following a few months of pretty significant changes, in terms of both departures and arrivals.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Who is the greatest safety in Steelers history?
Troy Polamalu. Right? It’s that simple.
Or is it? Okay, it probably is, but let’s not stop there. For starters, we can’t go without mentioning Donnie Shell, who did finish his career with 51 interceptions. That’s the third-most in team history, behind Mel Blount and Jack Butler. Polamalu’s 32 interceptions rank him tied for eighth with another great safety, Darren Perry.
Then there was Mike Wagner and Glen Edwards. There was Carnell Lake and Ryan Clark. There were others, of course, but I think I’ve listed all of the most significant names. You could talk about somebody like Chris Hope, but he would certainly fall behind everybody else already mentioned.
Suffice it to say that safety is a position at which they did already in their history, at least from the Chuck Noll era and onward. They have two who should be in the Hall of Fame (one of whom will definitely be there soon, the other should have been a long time ago), and a few others who should have consideration for the fictional Hall of Very Good.
But it’s Troy. No other safety on this left was ever the single-most important player on his unit the way he was. No other safety was a defensive player of the year the way he was. No other player almost routinely made logic-defying, game-altering plays that felt like magic and swung the momentum of the game simply because, if he was able to do that, then we have this game in hand.
Polamalu made the Pro Bowl from his second season on in every year in which he was healthy and missed fewer than four games. Most of them were accompanied by a nod for the All-Pro list, six times overall with four first-team recognitions.
Shell was awesome, make no mistake about that, but defensive coordinators weren’t necessarily spending their week specifically gameplanning for him. Polamalu is at the top. Shell comes right after him. personally, I would put Wagner next. What do you think?