I have a question for Mr. Troy Polamalu. It’s a very serious question and it’s really the first and only one I’ve been able to come up with in the days and hours since he announced his retirement.
My question is this; Who am I supposed to watch now when the Pittsburgh Steelers play defense?
I’ll watch most Steelers’ games two or three times each but I can’t lie about the fact that when I watch the live version, my eyes immediately find the guy with the flowing locks of dark hair. I guarantee you that I was not alone in this either.
Unfortunately we saw less of the superstar safety over the last several years as injuries took their toll but make no mistake about it; when Polamalu was on the field you knew it.
The same could be said for the opposing team as well. In his prime, no player since perhaps Lawrence Taylor was identified as quickly by opposing quarterbacks as Polamalu was.
Polamalu was a safety in name only because what he really was was in fact a linebacker in a small body. Safeties by nature are supposed to spend most of their time eight yards or more off the line of scrimmage but that was never the case with Polamalu in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 system.
Whether he was coming off of the edge or flying over the center, Polamalu didn’t re-create the safety position. What he really did was institute an original and entirely new way for the position to be played.
It was always interesting for me to hear about fans of other teams discuss Polamalu. I was in Lambeau Field in December of 2013 when the Steelers were playing Green Bay. I had some great interactions with Packers’ fans and one in particular was about number 43.
“How can’t you be a fan of that guy?” said one Packers’ fan. “He can just be another player for most of the game but you can’t take your eyes off of him. Then he goes and makes a big play and you start shaking your head,” another fan said.
It’s often said that the greatest compliment any player can get is when the opposition pays great respect to him. That’s the way it always was when teams planned for him and that’s been the way they’ve reacted this week to his retirement.
For me, I have the memories of seeing his entire, amazing career but I’m still left to wonder who I’m going to watch now when the defense takes the field.