Members of the Steelers‘ most recent championship teams have started chiming in about what the current team has been able to do this season. Pittsburgh, despite a rash of injuries, is 7-5 and would be the AFC’s sixth seed if the playoffs started today. 

Two days after former Steelers coach Bill Cowher proclaimed that his successor, Mike Tomlin, is in the midst of his best season as Pittsburgh’s head coach, Troy Polamalu, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Steelers and a semi-finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, expressed his appreciation for the work his former team is doing during an appearance on “The Jim Rome Show”. 

“I think it’s (a) really awesome coaching job to be very frank, for the coaches to miss so much talent and to continue to be in the position to make the playoffs,” Polamalu said of the Steelers, who have won six of their last seven games. “That’s what this game is all about. 

“One thing that we had always kind of told each other internally is, ‘They never wanna see us in the playoffs.’ They never wanna see the Steelers in the playoffs because that’s really where the guts come out, where the real personality of what the legacy of the Pittsburgh Steeler means to everyone. When we get an opportunity to display that in the playoffs, for us, it was a win-win situation. For the current team, to continue to put themselves in this position, where if they can make it to the playoffs, to me, it will just show how dangerous they could really be if they do make it.” 

While Polamalu is hoping the current team can show its mettle in the postseason, he also was asked about his place in Steelers lore. Aside from his ability as a player, the way Polamalu conducted himself during his time in Pittsburgh made him one of the most beloved players in franchise history. 

“It evolved over time,” Polamalu said of what it means to be a Steeler. “What’s really funny is, you’re playing at USC for four years and then going on my pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh, it was just a miserable winter night. I landed in Pittsburgh around 11:30 at night, went to the hotel and there was just that freezing rain. I remember calling my agent and was like, ‘I do not want to play here.’ His response was, ‘If they draft you, you’re gonna play there, definitely.’ I was like, ‘Alright, whatever.’

“As I moved to Pittsburgh and I understood more about the community, as I understood more about the legacy, what it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, to me, there was no better place, obviously, that I could have been a part of. Being part of, really, the same environment at USC that breeds greatness, that breeds this sort of success.” 

“I think what’s really funny when I talk to people about my experiences as a child growing up and watching football, the first NFL game that I truly watched was the first one that I played in,” Polamalu continued. “I wasn’t one to sit there and watch football every Sunday and remember players’ names and all these sorts of things. Whenever I saw it on TV, I said, ‘I’m just gonna go outside and play by myself.’ It just motivated me to play. So when I got drafted to the Steelers, and my friends are texting me: ‘Oh man, you got the baddest wide receiver. You got the baddest running back,’ and they’re throwing out these names. Of course, I had heard of Jerome Bettis and all of these names, but I didn’t know who Hines was, for example. And obviously, I learned really quickly in the first scrimmage what type of an awesome wide receiver that he was. I really didn’t grow up really admiring a lot of professionals because I really didn’t watch much football. 

“When people put me in that same sentence as them, it’s really humbling now, because obviously, I’ve learned a lot more about the NFL, a lot more about the Pittsburgh Steelers and Joe Greene and the cool 70s movement of how much Pittsburgh had meant really to this country at that time. It’s very humbling for me, for sure.”

Polamalu was extremely humble when asked how it feels to be a semi-finalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. An eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro, Polamalu, regarded as one of the greatest strong safeties in NFL history, was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. 

“Honestly, I’ve kinda been really indifferent towards receiving any type of award or recognition because, for a sport like football, it’s such a team-oriented sport. It’s hard to really talk about individual players, especially coming from teams that I’ve been a part of, thank God, for the 12 years that I played for the Steelers,” he said. “There’s definitely more than a handful of players that I’ve played with that are more deserving of this award. I could even point out players on other teams that, had they played with the James Harrisons, the (James) Farriors, the Ike Taylors, and under Coach (Dick) Lebeau, that perhaps could have been even more successful or as successful as I’ve been.” 

Polamalu is happy that he’s not facing today’s dual-threat quarterbacks like Chiefs starter Patrick Mahomes, who Polamalu co-starred with during a recent Head & Shoulders commercial

“It seems to me that are a lot more quarterbacks now that are truly dangerous in every single area,” Polamalu said. “They’re just as good as passers as they are runners. Obviously, Patrick is that as well, and his creativity and what he does from the quarterback position I think is really unique as well. Man, I don’t think I could have played against any of these guys, how dangerous as they are running the ball. And not only that, the gimmicks and how they can really throw defenses into mismatches, throwing defenses into the wrong gaps and whatnot. It seems to be much more of a complex game than when I was playing.” 

A husband and father of two, Polamalu, now 38 years old, says retirement has treated him well. 

“It’s been great, thank God,” he said. “I’ve got two boys that are nine and 11. Just really been trying to be the best father and the best husband that I can be and living out their dreams in sports and school and music and all that fun stuff. It’s been great.”