Spending your entire career or most of your career with one franchise ties you permanently to that team, that city, and your fellow players who spent most of their careers with you. A team lauded for its consistency, the Pittsburgh Steelers and many of their star players are examples of that, and so is the Hall of Fame class about to receive induction to Canton.
With both the 2020 and 2021 classes going in this year, five Steelers will receive induction: players Troy Polamalu, Alan Faneca, and Donnie Shell, coach Bill Cowher, and scout Bill Nunn. Shell and Nunn were part of the first group of Steelers tied together as a family, from the Steel Curtain days of the 1970s. Polamalu, Faneca, Cowher, and Nunn were part of another era of the franchise, winning a Super Bowl together in 2006.
Ahead of that induction, Polamalu continued a series of interviews by speaking with 93.7 The Fan Thursday, and he talked about that unique bond those Steeler teams had. Not just among the Hall of Fame players and stars, but throughout the entire roster.
“Personally, it’s something that’s innately within me, to be very frank. It’s something that’s culturally within me, just kind of this whole family environment, really seeing friends as authentic members of your family. So that’s something that was really easy for me. I think it’s not traditional to have that sort of culture in the NFL, and it really takes extraordinary leadership to have that sort of thing develop,” Polamalu said. “Jerome Bettis epitomized that. Hines Ward epitomized that. Joey Porter in our generation epitomized that, and I think a lot of Steelers fans would say that Joe Greene epitomized that and that whole generation in the 70s Steelers epitomized that as well.”
Polamalu and Faneca were leaders of the most recent generation of Steeler success. Both, along with Bettis, Porter, and Ward, were the stars of the 2006 team. That roster, in particular, is remembered as having that familial bond. Rallying around Bettis in his final season, the team overcame entering the postseason as the No. 6 seed to become the first bottom-seeded team to win it all, doing so in Bettis’ home town of Detroit.
Keeping that same attitude and bond, Polamalu and Ward brought a changed roster back to win another Super Bowl in 2009. It remains the team’s most recent Lombardi Trophy.
Polamalu had the good fortune of playing with and for several Hall of Famers. On the field, he shared 2003-2005 with Bettis, and 2003-2007 with Faneca. Polamalu also played 2003-2011 with Ward, a Hall semifinalist, and spent much of his career with two potential future Hall of Famers: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who Polamalu played with all but his rookie season, and center Maurkice Pouncey (2010-2014). Polamalu played under Cowher from 2003-2006, and Dan Rooney was the owner of the team for Polamalu’s entire career.
Even for one of the most successful franchises in NFL history when it comes to Hall of Famers, that’s a big collection of them to overlap with during a 12-year career. Adding to that blessing is that Polamalu will be inducted to Canton alongside two of them, in a class that is more decorated with Steelers than any other franchise.
“I’ve been surrounded by a lot of extraordinary people, to be drafted by a Hall of Fame coach, to have two Hall of Fame teammates to me is special. To have actually a Hall of Fame defensive coordinator. So I’ve been blessed through and through,” Polamalu said.