Troy soldier: Why Steelers' safety redefined position and deserves iconic status

04/11/15 by Rennie Detore



Sports is filled with cliches. It's almost a given that any sort of event, news or occasion with any substance is dubbed as monumental or "once in a lifetime." Players specifically will be referred to as "game changers" or given the status of "legendary" when often times it is more of a knee jerk reaction rather than warranted.
This is particular apparent and frustrating when a player in any sport retires, and they're immediately lauded as being someone that the game couldn't live without, even though as time passes you begin to realize once the newness of the retirement fades that they really weren't the icon once believed to be.
In the case of Pittsburgh Steelers' safety Troy Polamalu, the 12 year pro decided April 10 that he won't be returning for another season with the team that drafted him in 2003 and is calling it a career.

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Troy is leaving behind a signature look that goes beyond the long, black flowing hair that whipped in the wind as he raced up and down the field for more than a decade. He helped anchor a Steelers' defense through his tenure that led the team to two Super Bowl titles and a third appearance.
Anyone familiar with professional football in general or the Steelers specifically know just how superb the defense was in the 1970s, being referred to aptly as the "Steel Curtain" and being notorious for their aggression en route to winning four Super Bowls through that decade.
Troy was a throwback to those teams of the 1970s. He played with such fervor and tenacity that the praise heaped upon him was not only warranted, but he was often compared to players from that original "Steel Curtain" team.
If you ask Troy about that, his play on the field or the success he experienced in his career, he'll undoubtedly, in that uniquely soft voice given the profession he chose, deflect any praise or downplay how he revolutionized the game of professional football and the position of safety.
That sense of humbleness only allowed Troy's lure to grow with every bone crunching tackle or unbelievable closing speed to run parallel on the field and snag an interception seemingly out of nowhere. He was a safety by trade, but you'd often see him roaming the field as a linebacker in the middle of the defense or even on the line of scrimmage ready to rush the passer and create the kind of chaos that drove offensive coordinators crazy and made them completely have to alter their game plan to account for where Troy was at all times.
Part of what makes a player great, like Troy, is when you take a position or craft within the confines of your sport and take the expectation and turn it on its proverbial ear. Troy wreaked havoc and rarely played as a paint by numbers position player, which is the definition of being legendary as what you do.
One sports cliché you'll hear about Polamalu today and in the coming days and weeks is that he "redefined the position." And, again, a lot of times that lingo is overused and rarely means anything given that it is perpetuated in every newspaper, magazine or online story that references the would be player.
In the case of Polamalu, anything said or written about him is justified and deserved. He's a rare breed of quiet confidence, pugnacious work ethic and a style of player that was equal parts engaging for fans to watch and remarkably proficient at his craft.
So, let the cliches flow, because Troy deserves every last piece of it.

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