By Steeler Nation Staff
Tasmanian Devil Lands in Canton
It’s barely a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh to Canton, but in order to be inducted into the NFL’s most exclusive club, it takes a career of stellar play, personal accolades, and a commitment to excellence. A few Super Bowl rings doesn’t hurt the cause either. And while you can debate your favorite nickname for one of the greatest ever to roam the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary, what is no longer in doubt is Troy Polamalu’s elite status as a first-ballot National Football League Hall-of-Famer. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Polamalu is universally lauded as a tremendous human being and a shining star amongst the many luminaries who have blessed the Steel City with their athletic prowess, rendering championships to a rabid and appreciative fan base.
Troy Polamalu is a first-ballot Hall of Famer ????
Former Steelers safety and NFL legend gets his gold jacket. pic.twitter.com/UajiTB4rKR
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 1, 2020
Often referred to as “The Quiet Storm” for his humble demeanor off the field, contrasted by his frenetic and punishing performances on it, he set the gold standard for safeties over the dozen years he toiled exclusively as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Polamalu was 207 pounds of kinetic energy and twisted steel, a fleet-footed phantom with a penchant for producing pandemonium and an appetite for destruction. Replete with a flowing black mane (which no helmet could contain), and a recurring nightmare for opposing offenses whenever he lined up, the curtain closed on his storied career after the 2014 season. When the dust settled, Polamalu had carved his name in Canton as an eight-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champion, and the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
In this day and age of free agency, where professional athletes ply their trade for the highest bidder, Polamalu will always be uniquely, and exclusively, remembered as a Pittsburgh Steeler. But now his legacy will be shared in the hallowed halls of football’s Mount Olympus, where he will breathe the rarefied air of the greatest players ever to grace the gridiron.
Can Steelers Reclaim the North?
There was a time when the AFC North title was the exclusive province of the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, but the Cleveland Browns are no longer a doormat, while the Cincinnati Bengals are expected to begin a renaissance courtesy of the much-anticipated selection of LSU’s dynamic, young, Heisman Trophy quarterback, Joe Burrow, as the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft. And despite the fact that Cleveland is on the rise and Cincinnati simply can’t get much worse, the North is still a two-team race. But according to the odds, Baltimore is the clear favorite to repeat as division champs.
However, let’s not forget that the moment proved too big for NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson as he and the Ravens were shocked in the postseason by the upstart Tennessee Titans. Could that inexperience be a window for the Steelers to regain control of the North and make a Super Bowl run next season? Well, all roads begin and end in Pittsburgh with the health of quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger which is a huge question mark after he saw action in only the first two games of last season before being sidelined with an elbow injury. What we saw after that was a platoon of Devlin “Duck” Hodges and Mason Rudolph that equated to a .500 season and an early vacation when the playoffs arrived.
We surprised Lamar Jackson with a special video right after he won MVP.
— NFL (@NFL) February 2, 2020
Another pressing concern is not only Big Ben’s health, but his ability to recapture the magic of his previous campaigns, two of which resulted in Super Bowl championships and six trips to the Pro Bowl. At age 37, Roethlisberger may find his cannon arm more of a pistol and mobility issues could very well come into play when he tries to exit the pocket to pick up chunks of real estate on the edge, or at least buy time until he scans the field and locks onto a target.
Assuming the best, that Roethlisberger is in tip-top shape and ready to roll, he will need viable weapons other than JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner. And while that tandem may fall short of the dynamic duo of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell of a few seasons ago, the Steelers have a well-equipped defense, and all they need now are a few more tools in the offensive shed to compete against the Ravens next season.
Stay tuned and let’s see what the draft and free agency bring to Pittsburgh’s table.