“It’s surreal. It really feels surreal,” acknowledged Troy Polamalu on hearing he had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “All of my teammates, it’s truly a tribute to them. I feel honoured and unworthy of it to be honest.”
Entering the 2003 draft, the Steelers priority was a starting defensive back. Lee Flowers was struggling to play man coverage in the open field against the faster receivers that were dictating offenses.
Troy Polamalu represented the answer to the Steelers needs. He had the closing speed the Steelers were looking for in a safety and he could hit. Always a positive for a Steelers defensive player. Polamalu also had one huge plus when the Steelers were looking at him. He was a potential starter as a rookie.
Mark Madden writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggested the Steelers would go for Polamalu, but for the Steelers, the challenge was selecting 27th overall. Would Polamalu still be available when the Steelers got on the board?
Polamalu represented such a huge asset for the Steelers that they went against their tradition of 70 years and traded up to get their man. They gave their third and sixth round picks to Kansas to move to the 16th spot.
The Steelers organisation were very enthusiastic with their praise for the player. “He has unique ability to cover like a corner and hit like a linebacker,” said Coach Cowher. “This kid is going to bring a lot of energy to a need position,” said Kevin Colbert, the Steelers director of football operations. “He’s special. He’s going to create a lot of excitement and he’s going to help our defense immediately.”
Usually, players do not live up to the acclaim that is lavished upon them when joining a team. In Polamalu’s case, it was not only justified, but proved to absolute legitimate.
Polamalu was just as passionate about the franchise he was going to play for. “This is one of the most historic teams in football and you’re talking about some great defense through the years. It’s very similar to the tradition USC carries in college football. I’m looking forward to being part of something special.”
How prophetic were those words because it was Polamalu who became something special. He was a unique piece of a Steelers team that won Super Bowl XL and XLIII.
Polamalu will join Donnie Shell and Coach Cowher in the Class of 2020 and be inducted into Canton’s Hall of Fame this August.