There isn’t a hell of a lot that Pittsburgh native Aaron Donald hasn’t accomplished during his eight-year NFL career since being drafted in the first round out of Pitt by the St. Louis Rams in 2014. He won the Defensive Rookie of the Year that year, and has been a first-team All-Pro every year after it. He is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, tied for the most ever, and has been a finalist in each of the past seven seasons, at least.
Now he is a Super Bowl champion, and he made several key plays in last night’s game to help assure victory. In spite of the fact that he has only been in the game for eight years (though he is going to be 31 in May already), he has secured a lasting legacy, and likely would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer if he never played another snap.
Is it even possible that he doesn’t play again, though? Rodney Harrison reported before last night’s Super Bowl that there was a possibility Donald would entertain retirement in the event that the Rams won. He was asked about it after the game, and he didn’t dismiss it out of hand.
“I’m just in the moment right now”, he said during his post-game interview, as transcribed by Charean Williams for Pro Football Talk. “I’m going to enjoy this with my teammates, my family. I’m just going to be in the moment and enjoy this today, or for a couple of days. This is a blessing”.
While it’s very normal to be ‘in the moment’ in the middle of such an incredible life experience, most people still generally know whether or not they want to keep playing, and likely have at least given it some thought before the game.
Could Donald really consider retirement? Personally, I think it’s extremely unlikely just because of the immense amount of passion that he clearly has for the game, but it is undeniable that there is a completeness to his career, his legacy has one of the greatest defenders in NFL history left unambiguous.
In just eight seasons, Donald has compiled 98 sacks as a defensive tackle, with 441 tackles, 150 tackles for loss, 226 quarterback hits, 23 forced fumbles, 16 passes defensed, and a safety. He is an eight-time Pro Bowler (e.g. every year), a seven-time first-team All-Pro, to reiterate, a seven-time Defensive Player of the Year finalist, and a three-time winner. Oh yeah, and a world champion.
He finished the 2021 season with a career-high 84 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits. The fact that his 12.5 sacks feels somewhat pedestrian for him is merely a testament to his established greatness.
Greatness out of Pittsburgh, born and bred. A Penn Hills High School graduate. A four-year starter for the Pittsburgh Panthers. The only thing that could have made his story more remarkable would have been if he were blessed to have accomplished all of this with the Pittsburgh Steelers.