Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, among the most revered players in franchise history, is retiring. He announced the decision Thursday in an interview with the Herald-Standard of Uniontown, Pa.
Polamalu, 33, a standout at USC, was selected in the first round of the 2003 draft, marking the first time the Steelers took a safety in the opening round. He played 12 seasons, made eight Pro Bowls, and four times was selected a first-team All-Pro. The Steelers moved him all around the defense, and he helped redefine the position.
The Steelers have wanted to get younger on defense, had talked to him about retiring, and reportedly were considering releasing him. Polamalu told the Herald-Standard that for most of his career, he would have gone to great lengths to keep playing.
“But when I started this process and started to debate whether I should come back or should I play, that was kind of the sign for me to say, 'Whoa, if you’re just even debating it, maybe you shouldn’t play anymore,'" he said. "Because what I do know about this game is it takes a lot -- a lot -- of commitment just to be an average player."
Polamalu’s uncle, Kennedy Polamalu, who coaches running backs at UCLA, said he has had several phone conversations with his nephew in recent weeks about the decision.
"It was an emotional thing," the elder Polamalu told The Times. "We never planned for the way he played the game with such love and spirit, and that it would go 12 years. He wasn’t a highly recruited kid, so we went back through his journey and reminisced about how when he got into college no one knew who he was."
Kennedy Polamalu said his nephew, who has two sons, lamented spending time away from his family to train for football.
"He’s getting a chance to take them to school now, be with them in the off-season," he said. "He told me once, 'Uncle, you know how I love to go to the movies? Well, if I go to the movies, I want to get popcorn, but I can’t eat it because it makes me gain weight.' … He’s going to have popcorn now."