Legendary Steelers' safety Troy Polamalu penned a letter "A Pittsburgh Steeler" on Monday afternoon which appeared on all his social media platforms. The letter was a thank you and tribute to Pittsburgh, the Steelers organization, and all the coaches and players that played a role in his Hall of Fame career. The letter comes days after it was announced that Polamalu was elected into the Steelers Hall of Honor.
Polamalu's first NFL game that he watched was actually the first game he played in. He wasn't really a fan of the mass attention that surrounds the game at the Division I collegiate level and the NFL. He simply just loved playing the game in its purest form.
"I truly enjoyed playing the game. I enjoyed practicing more than playing on Sundays," Polamalu wrote in his letter. "Practices reminded me of turkey bowl games against friends in elementary. They reminded me of playing one on one tackle football against my older brother Kaio on our lawn in Southern California. He would turn on the sprinklers to resemble muddy Soldier Field, me being Walter Payton, jumping over him, the opposing defense. I would emulate Sweetness jumping over the goal line and my brother would launch me even further into the air reaching heights even coach Lebeau wouldn’t approve. Practices for me at St Vincent and Southside were similar, fun and stress free."
Before coming to Pittsburgh, Polamalu had no idea of the star players on the Steelers or the details involving the organization.
"I’ll further explain my ignorance when one of my best friends Aaron had to explain to me that I wasn’t playing at Three Rivers stadium but Heinz Field, that Jerome Bettis is a future HOFer and to watch out for Hines Ward who is the baddest man in the NFL," Polamalu said. Which I found out at our first full padded practice when I tried to sneak a shot at him on a run play, only for Hines to snatch me up when my legs loosened while giving his classic grin and saying, “I’m not like everyone else”, no doubt!"
Coming out of USC as regarded as one of the best safeties in the NFL Draft and selected by the Steelers at 16th overall after trading up 11 spots, there were high expectations for Polamalu from fans and the media, and at first, he didn't live up to what the masses expected from him.
"My rookie year was a bust," Polamalu said. "I couldn’t make a play of any significance. I recall reading the newspaper early in the season calling me a first round bust. I vowed not to read any sports column in the future. Ryan Clark challenged current team captain Cam Heyward in a similar way. Cam, without a doubt has carried on our Steeler legacy since. During the last game of my rookie season, Mr. Dan Rooney approached me and said, 'Don’t pay any attention to what they're saying about you, I think you're doing fine.' My reaction was, 'Mr. Rooney, they’re still talking bad about me.' Hahaha. Papa Rooney said to me after my last game before retirement something similar."
At the root of it all, Polamalu just loved playing the game that he started playing as a young child in Los Angeles, the money and fame didn't matter to him. The bond that he created with his teammates and the journey of everything was what mattered most.
"Coach Cowher would teach us to embrace misery. Especially from uncontrollable environmental factors. More often it was the humid summers and cold winters. Weather would never be a factor. We found joy when teams forced us to wear black early in the season hoping the heat would fatigue us. We found joy on sloppy muddy fields in the fall and especially with below 0 bone chilling wind in late winter. We lived in it, practiced in it, and reawakened our childhood passions on game days in it.
"This legacy is passed down in the locker room, from Joe Greene’s and now to the Cam Heyward’s and TJ Watt’s. To a band of brothers that are closely tied to things deeper than money, business, and winning."
Polamalu may have not known much about the Steelers as a kid from the West Coast when he first arrived in Pittsburgh in 2003, but he certainly knows what it means to be a Steeler now after a 12-year Hall of Fame career that included him being a two-time Super Bowl champion, eight-time Pro Bowler and being named first-team All-Pro four times, along with being named Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
"To be a Steeler is to consider others before you consider yourself," Polamalu said. "To protect your brother, even from himself, to give support, even at your expense, when wearing black and gold suit of armor, make sure nobody desecrates or disrespects it, most importantly we ourselves don’t dishonor it. One of the best sayings I’ve ever heard from previous legends who have donned the black and gold is, “You could have played with us.”
Polamalu appreciates the core values of the Steelers organization which starts at the top with the Rooneys. They are simple principles, but there's so much that can be gained and learned from them when they are carried out.
"What I truly appreciate about the Steeler way is that at its core, it’s the success of a family," he said. "The core of our success is culture based on essential virtues any person respects and honors. Humility, Passion, Resilience and Legacy."
Polamalu finished off his letter by recapping his journey from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and how he's thankful to be named to the Steelers Hall of Honor, joining legendary players who he looked up to and tried to meet the standard that they set with the "Steelers Way."
"When I showed up to my first day in my brand new Range Rover because I was a Trojan from LA before I became a Steeler, I never thought Pittsburgh would be my home," Polamalu said. "In fact I called my agent Marvin Demoff during my predraft visit to Pittsburgh on a dreary cold and rainy night asking to make sure I never go back. Now, I’m blessed to be in the Hall of Honor, confirmation that enduring the struggles to emulate players before me is worthwhile. Thank yinz."
You can read the rest of Polamalu's "A Pittsburgh Steeler" letter here and on all his social media platforms.