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Number #6 of the Best All-Time Players of the Cowher Era

For 15 Days we will be counting down the Top 15 Greatest Steelers of the Bill Cowher Era. The list will have both offensive and defensive players, and in doing the list no kickers or punters were selected. Below is our number choice of the day building towards the number one Steeler of the Cowher Era.

Number #6

Troy Polamalu S 2003-Present


Playing with reckless abandon, as well as with a furor that not many have seen at the safety position, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu lands at number 6 on our top 15 players of the Bill Cowher Era. His career with the Steelers has been defined by his strong play at the position, as well as his quiet demeanor off the field. While he is sure to get a whopping extension to stay in Black and Gold for a long time, there is no doubt that in his first four seasons he has quickly established himself as one of the best in the game.

His career in Pittsburgh started on draft day 2003, as the Steelers moved up in the draft to snag the then USC Safety. It was the first time the Steelers had ever moved up in the first round to take a player, and also was the first time the team ever used a first round draft choice to take a safety. Their risks that first season did not exactly pay off right away, as Troy played in all 16 games of the Steelers 2003 season, recording 38 tackles and two sacks but some questioned if the pick was the right one for the Steelers. Both he and the team struggled a bit in 03, as the Steelers went 6-10, out of the playoffs for the first time in two seasons. By 2004 though, the Steelers were back on top of the AFC North, and Polamalu was right there, as he had a stellar sophomore season. The team was rolling at 15-1, and Troy was right there for it all, starting all 16 games, and making one of the more memorable plays of the year, as he rolled over former college teammate Carson Palmer for an INT return for a score late in an early season win over the Bengals.

He tallied 96 tackles that season, 67 solo, had a sack, and picked off five passes, including the one vs the Bengals, and then a key INT vs the Jets in the Steelers first playoff game that eventually resulted in points in the teams 20-17 overtime win. While that season ended with an awful AFC Title game loss to the Patriots, there was no question that Troy was establishing himself as a force in the secondary, and he earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. By 2005, many considered Polamalu as one of the top safeties in the game. That season in which he was a big reason why the Steelers won their 5th Super Bowl title, Polamalu again had a great season, with 91 tackles, 73 solo, three sacks, and two interceptions. He made huge plays in the three AFC wins to get Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl, including a pick in the first win at Cincy, what should have been a pick vs the Colts in round two, then some unreal tackles in the AFC Title game at Denver. He also played well in the Super Bowl, helping the Steelers overcome the Seahawks 21-10.

Polamalu was rewarded after the 2005 season with another Pro Bowl trip, and in 2006, with the Steelers losing 6 of their first 8, Troy’s play was still at a high level. His interception vs the Chiefs and then hair pull down by Larry Johnson was one of the more bizarre highlights of the season. His season was cut short after suffering the first injury of his career, this coming in week 12 vs the Ravens. He missed three games last year, but still totalled 76 tackles, 57 solo, one sack and three interceptions. While the Steelers season ended at 8-8, Polamalu was once again elected to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career.

You have to love what #43 brings to the table each and every week for the Steelers. He says a prayer before each and every play, yet plays with heart and desire that right now makes him the most valuable defense player the Steelers have. His career in his first four seasons has gotten off to a tremendous start, and with a new large contract coming soon, he will have every chance in the world to become one of the best Steelers safeties ever.

Tomorrow: Number #5

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. black&gold Girl

    July 11, 2007 at 11:51 am

    God I hope he stays a Steeler for life.

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