Even though he doesn’t go out of his way to make his presence felt, Troy Polamalu will always be a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, and later on this season they will recognize him with an induction into their Hall of Honor as part of a five-man all-defense class in 2020.
It’s fitting that it comes in a year in which the defense is so prominent, and headlined by All-Pro players like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Steelers are in the top five in the league in scoring defense, which is a big part of the reason why they are undefeated so far this year.
The other major reason is Ben Roethlisberger having been able to come back from a severe elbow injury and to play something like his former self. Though he himself has said that he has yet to play a good game and is expecting more from himself, the contrast in play at the position between this year and last year has been stark.
Big Ben’s return to form—a process that is still ongoing—didn’t surprise Polamalu, however, one bit, as a man who spent most of his career as his teammate. It fits his profile, as well as that of the organization, in the way that they have responded to adversity, he said on the Tiki and Tierney Show yesterday.
“Ben’s always been so great at overcoming doubt from people, and winning in underdog circumstances”, he said. “The organization as a whole, I think, the success that they’ve had this year is just really a continuation of a great tradition that they have there in Pittsburgh, and throughout the whole entire organization”.
Polamalu himself was a part of some great defenses and some great teams, but it was rare that they were able to go 3-0. The last time they did it was in 2010, and they managed to make the Super Bowl that year.
“I think this year, so far, they are in great position”, he said of the 2020 team. “Obviously there are always a lot of teams that everybody’s very excited about, but the sentiment within the organization has always been ‘just get to the playoffs, and that’s when we’ll really shine’. When they make statements like they have earlier this season, it just seems like more great things are going to come from the team”.
In reality, the Steelers are coming off of a two-year playoff brought after ending the past two seasons as the ‘seventh’ seed, which until this year, ironically enough, didn’t exist, or at least didn’t mean anything except being the first team to miss the playoffs.
It has also been four years since their last playoff victory, winning in the Divisional Round in 2016 to advance to the Conference Finals. It’s rare that the Steelers go three years without a playoff victory, let alone an appearance, so they have to change that.