To have even one interception considered to be one of the top-five in NFL history is a heck of an accomplishment. But the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t stop at one. They have two. That’s how the Will Selva and the Good Morning Football Crew ranked things in their breakdown of the top five picks in NFL history Wednesday morning.
Coming in at #3 was Troy Polamalu’s diving, one-handed pick against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers in 2008. You know the one. Polamalu with a play only he could make, somehow locating, diving, reaching out, and tucking his hand under the ball to come down with the pick.
“This one-handed. That, my friends, a ten for difficulty,” Selva said of the play.
What’s forgotten about this play is that it might’ve been a pick-six, a cherry on top of an all-time athletic play, had Polamalu not run into Larry Foote and fell. Polamalu still finished with a 21-yard return and with a convoy out in front coupled with a confused Chargers’ team in disbelief Polamalu picked it off, he might have returned it all the way. Regardless, this was a quintessential Polamalu play and he somehow had an equally impressive one against the Philadelphia Eagles that occurred earlier in the same season.
Of course, the other Steelers’ interception rightfully claimed the top spot. James Harrison’s 100-yard pick six in the Super Bowl to help beat the Arizona Cardinals, one of the greatest plays in football history. Harrison abandoning his assignment on a hunch to drop into coverage, undercut the route, pick off Kurt Warner’s pass, and somehow have the stamina and blocks to just barely get over the goal line and into the end zone.
“This was such an unbelievable play knowing the clock was at zero, the stakes were so high…if he gets tackled at the one, the Steelers have nothing to show for it.”
Polamalu made an always-overlooked key block on that return too, pushing Larry Fitzgerald off his path and into a crowded Cardinals’ sideline. Fitzgerald wouldn’t catch Harrison until the one-yard line. If Polamalu doesn’t make this block, Fitzgerald probably gets there a lot sooner and prevents a touchdown.
Selva’s list didn’t speak for the entire group with Peter Schrager not including either of those plays on his top five. But Selva’s list gets it right here with those two plays being added. The other three he included were Eric Allen’s 1993 pick-six at #5, Antonio Cromartie’s one-handed interception in 2007 at #4, and Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl-saving pick at #2.