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Moments, plays and accolades are what make up a Hall of Fame career.
For Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, there’s more of those than possible to count as we prepare for his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Class of 2020 member.
We did the impossible task of counting down the five moments that helped defined Polamalu’s historic career before he heads to Canton in August.
Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Jets
When: January 15, 2005
Troy Polamalu didn’t falter when it came to the postseason.
In fact, he thrived in the do-or-die atmosphere that the playoffs create.
The strong safety has a full resume of incredible postseason plays and moments (several which are included in this list), but we wanted to start with his first playoff takeaway.
After posting a 15-1 regular season record, the Steelers met the New York Jets in the 2005 AFC Divisional Round. Polamalu started in his first career playoff game and made the most of it, combining for seven tackles, one pass deflection and his first career playoff interception.
With over four minutes left in the first quarter of the Divisional Round matchup, Polamalu sat deep and intercepted a pass from Jets quarterback Chad Pennington. Pittsburgh would go on to win the game 20-17.
Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
When: October 6, 2004
In a Week 4 matchup with the Bengals, Pittsburgh found itself leading, 21-17, with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals and quarterback Carson Palmer had a chance with the ball to drive down the field but would have to get through Polamalu first.
As Palmer dropped back into the pocket on one of the drive’s initial plays, he threw it right into the outstretched hands of Polamalu, who corralled the ball at the 25-yard line and weaved his way through the opposing Bengals to record the first score of his career.
Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks
When: February 5, 2006
Super Bowl victories are typically a statistic tied to quarterbacks, but when you’re a defensive leader on a Super Bowl-winning team, it also is included in your resume.
Polamalu finished his career with three Super Bowl appearances and two victories, but the first in 2006 was the sweetest.
In a game that featured two defenses going back and forth, Polamalu recorded five tackles and helped lead a Pittsburgh defense that held the Seahawks to just two scores in an eventual 21-10 Steelers win.
The win earned the Steelers their fifth title in franchise history and they would go on to win the 2009 Super Bowl to set the franchise record for most Super Bowl victories.
When: 2010-11 Season
While it is not considered a specific moment, Polamalu’s 2010 season was the most prolific of his career and worthy of including in this list.
After only playing in nine games during the 2009 season due to injury, Polamalu came back with a vengeance the next year, wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
The strong safety recorded seven interceptions, one pick-six, 63 combined tackles, one sack and one forced fumble as the Steelers made it all the way back to the Super Bowl, eventually falling to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Polamalu’s efforts did not go unnoticed, though, as he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
When: January 18, 2009
The 2009 AFC Championship Game saw two division rivals go head-to-head for a spot in the Super Bowl.
The Steelers jumped out to a commanding 13-0 lead early in front of the Heinz Field faithful, but the Ravens fired back and brought the game to 16-14 with just five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens had the ball, down two, with a chance to drive down the field and secure the game-winning field goal.
With a second trip to the Super Bowl for Polamalu on the line, the strong safety had to make a play.
With 4:38 left on the clock, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco dropped back from the shotgun and lofted a pass into triple coverage, with Polamalu grabbing it out of the air at the 40-yard line. He proceeded to take the ball the entire width of the field on his return, running right past Flacco as he entered into the endzone and sent the Steelers to the Super Bowl.
Join the Steelers faithful in Canton this August to honor the enshrinement of Troy Polamalu into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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