Just a few short minutes ago on the NFL Network, right before the debut of Bill Belichick: A Football Life, it was reported that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin called Dan Rooney in Ireland to plead for the organization to sign Troy Polamalu to a new contract that would ensure No. 43 retires in Pittsburgh. Rooney, of course, is the current Ambassador to Ireland, appointed to the post by President Obama early in his first term. It's never been quite clear how involved Rooney has remained in football decisions, but obviously the living patriarch of the Rooney family still has considerable sway over any and all decisions made at team headquarters.
We'll have to wait and see if Tomlin elaborates on why he felt it necessary to phone Mr. Rooney to state his case, but obviously the reasoning goes beyond just what Polamalu does on the football field. I'd guess that there was a desire to enter the new season with zero major contract issues lingering over the team. Polamalu is arguably one of the NFL's most popular stars, and you know the media would have returned to the question throughout the year, regardless of how many times Tomlin said that the issue was off the table until season's end.
We'll have to see if the Steelers get maximum return on investment from Polamalu on Sundays. We all know his injury history, and how his style of play puts him at significant injury risk each time he suits up. Last Sunday in Week 1, Polamalu had little impact. He was not burned, and you could probably count on one hand the number of boneheaded mental mistakes he's made over the years on one hand. But like he was in the Super Bowl, Polamalu seemed a half step slow to the ball. Give credit to the Ravens for outstanding execution, but a 100 percent healthy Polamalu is able to break up some of the success Baltimore had offensively.
Will he ever get back to 100 percent, though? Probably not, but it's realistic to expect him to start resembling his old self sometime this season assuming he doesn't get dinged up again. Once his fast-twitch muscle movements are back to normal, I imagine he'll regain that last bit of his patented explosiveness that's been missing from his game.
Even if Polamalu is never quite the same, it will always be the right move to ensure he retired with the Steelers. He's just too uniquely special of a player and person to let get away. Players like him are how brands are built and maintained over the years.
Hopefully though Polamalu rewards the organization by playing lights out this next four years, and helps bring one or two more Lombardi Trophies back to Pittsburgh before calling it a career. We'll all then think back fondly about Mike Tomlin's decision to pick up the phone and call Mr. Dan Rooney in Ireland to make sure that a deal got in time to honor the organization's way of doing business, and locking up one of the game's most iconic and well-liked players to ever wear the black-and-gold.