Pittsburgh Steelers: Will Troy Polamalu Finish His Career with Another Team?

Mike Batista@Steel_TweetsContributor IMarch 24, 2013

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is signed through 2014.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is signed through 2014.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Picture Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu in a Ravens uniform.

Or a Patriots uniform. Or a Browns uniform.

Or picture those legendary locks flowing from the stripes of a Bengals helmet.

Don't think it could happen?

Baltimore Ravens fans probably never imagined Ed Reed in any color other than purple, but Reed was signed Friday by the Houston Texans.

The Ravens-Steelers rivalry and their parallel as future-Hall of Fame safeties has minted Reed-Polamalu as a sports debate along the lines of Williams-DiMaggio, Russell-Chamberlain, McEnroe-Connors and Bird-Magic.

Reed and Polamalu are linked to the point that Reed's departure from Baltimore forces Steelers fans to ponder the possibility of Polamalu's exit from Pittsburgh in the not-too-distant future.

When he signed his current four-year contract in 2011, Polamalu proclaimed he would retire a Steeler, according to ESPN.com.

It seemed like Reed would retire a Raven. He talked about retiring every year since 2010, according to the Baltimore Sun. Now the 34-year-old has a three-year deal with the Houston Texans, so it looks like he'll be working for a while longer.

When Polamalu said he'd retire as a Steeler, presumably he meant at the end of his contract, which expires after the 2014 season. Did he consider the possibility of not making it that far?

Polamalu, who turns 32 in April, missed nine games last season because of injuries. If that happens again in 2013, and the Steelers need to clear salary-cap space, it's not unthinkable that they would release him.

In that case, Polamalu could be excused for finishing out his career in another uniform, because taking him at face value, he plans on playing two more years.

Even if Polamalu plays out his contract with two healthy, productive seasons, will he really retire before turning 34?

Polamalu told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last May that he thinks about retirement "all the time."

Well, so did Reed.

Will Polamalu be so eager to embrace retirement in two years when the end of his career is staring him in the face? If he wants to keep playing and can't agree with the Steelers on a deal, then get ready for an emotional farewell.

Even if Polamalu packs his bags to go to another team, we should be jaded to this stuff. Pro athletes rarely play their entire careers with the same team. We know that. This has been going on for decades.

Even the family-owned Steelers aren't immune to this reality. Rod Woodson put a lot of stickers on his suitcase after he left the Steelers, helping the Ravens win a Super Bowl and helping the Raiders get to a Super Bowl.

Joey Porter and Alan Faneca both made Pro Bowls after leaving the Steelers.

Mike Webster played the last two years of his career in Kansas City. Franco Harris' career came to an unceremonious end with the Seattle Seahawks in 1984.

On the other hand, Jerome Bettis' career had a storybook ending.

Hines Ward didn't leave on his own terms, but at least he finished his career in Pittsburgh.

If Bettis and Ward can take their bow as Steelers (silly one-day contracts don't count), is it too much to ask for Polamalu to do the same?

Like Bettis and Ward, Polamalu is an endearing Steeler. He's soft-spoken. He sells shampoo with a sense of humor. And it's just fun to watch him play.

There will never be another Immaculate Reception. But combine Polamalu's pick-six in the 2008 AFC Championship Game, his strip-sack of Joe Flacco in 2010, his hurdles over the line of scrimmage and all his other jaw-dropping plays, and you have an Immaculate Reception for a new generation.

Polamalu has provided so many memories that it would just be too painful to see that hair coming out of any other helmet.

If he stays healthy and remains true to his word, maybe we won't have to see that.


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