Going into the Hall of Fame is the greatest individual distinction that a player can ever receive as a professional athlete, and honor that signifies them as the greatest of the greatest to ever participate in their field. And yet many athletes once there, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Troy Polamalu, first and foremost credit their teammates and coaches for getting them there.
Drafted in 2003, Polamalu spent a decade in the Steelers’ defense, and he was often the straw that stirred the defense’s drink. It’s not a coincidence that two of the team’s worst seasons were in the years that he missed the most time due to injury.
In spite of his individual excellence, however, what made him able to be so great was the instruction and trust of his coaches and the understanding and structural framework that the rest of his teammates provided.
Chances are, Polamalu is the only defender that he ever played with that will wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Maybe somebody like Cameron Heyward had a distant chance if he has a great second act. James Harrison could have distant hopes a number of years from now.
But with Polamalu in there, all of them feel represented, as they should, and some of his closest teammates, including Harrison, shared their thoughts on his being inducted into the Hall of Fame through the team’s website. You can watch the short video below, also including Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 5, 2020
The defenses of the 2000s were my first real experience with football as somebody who knew more about the game than just seeing people running around on the field and tackling each other. Watching them play is what led me to digging deeper into football to really understand what my eyes were seeing.
Polamalu was my favorite player to watch, but Dick LeBeau’s championship runs, especially in 2008, were truly something to behold, with Harrison and LaMarr Woodley a lethal combination. Then you have James Farrior, Larry Foote, and Lawrence Timmons in the middle, and the incredible front line of Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, and Casey Hampton?
It’s no wonder LeBeau spent so much of his Hall of Fame speech talking about the guys he was coaching, naming these players, because he wanted them to be a part of his story, and a part of the NFL’s story. They are at least immortalized in that speech, even though he went in as a player, not a contributor.
And now Polamalu’s bust, featuring the best head of hair in Canton, will stand as a testament to one of the greatest eras in team history, behind only the 1970s dynasty, which, let’s be honest, has plenty of representation, with Donnie Shell this year adding to that legacy.