Decisions like this have become rare, not only in the NFL, but in sports in general. It’s never fun when an iconic star is forced to leave their city because of either money, or the team shifting its vision toward the future. We just saw Vince Wilfork go from New England to Houston, and although Patriots fans aren’t happy about it, that’s just how things work in sports. Heck, we watched these same Steelers let James Harrison wear a Bengals uniform before returning home to Pittsburgh this past season.
Troy Polamalu decided he wanted to be different.
The demand for Polamalu is there. He could easily be holding up one of several NFL uniforms at a press conference this offseason. But a Steeler uniform wasn’t going to be one of them, so he decided to hang up his cleats. Much respect.
The Steelers weren’t going to pay Polamalu his $6 million that he was due this season in base salary, and were openly hoping for their star safety to retire so they wouldn’t have to make the uncomfortable decision of cutting him. I can’t say that I blame athletes that opt to keep their careers going elsewhere once they’re forced out of town. I’d take the money to play elsewhere too. But it’s still refreshing to see one here and there that says, “You know what? It’s been fun, and I’m happy enough with how things went to let the road end here.”
That’s obviously much easier said than done, and in Polamalu’s case, easier done when you have a pair of Super Bowl rings in your trophy case at home. But just take a moment to appreciate the eight-time Pro Bowler for deciding that 12 years in black and gold was more important to him than the money of a 13th year anywhere else, even when he feels he can still play.
And if anyone appreciates it most, it will be Steeler fans. No fans want to see their stars leave after spending their entire career in one uniform. And other fans don’t understand it until it happens to them. My eyes still burn from time to time when I see Paul Pierce in a Nets or Wizards jersey. It just doesn’t look right.
Here’s the only part I don’t get. Polamalu wants Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh wants Polamalu. Just because a contract says he’s due $6 million, why can’t you rip it up and start over? Wilfork was suppose to be finished with the Patriots back in 2014, not 2015. But the two sides came from a situation similar to Polamalu’s with the Steelers and arrived at an unexpected agreement, and boy did it work out. Wilfork produced at a higher level than the team expected, and Big Vince was a key piece to another Bill Belichick Super Bowl team.
But props to Troy for not being pushed around. If family time is what he wants then he deserves it. However, if he still wants to play for the Steelers next year, it’s foolish for them to not work something out.
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