PITTSBURGH — His flowing locks bouncing off the top of his No. 43 jersey, Troy Polamalu spent more than a decade flying across football fields as the heady but humble backbone of a defense that fueled the Pittsburgh Steelers’ return to the NFL’s elite.
Now, his singular career is a part of franchise lore. Move over Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount.
You’ve got company.
Polamalu, an eight-time Pro Bowler and 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is retiring after 12 seasons, telling the only team he’s ever played for that it’s time for the next phase of his life.
“Troy is a shining example of a football man in the way he loved the game, the way he respected the game and the way he played the game,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s a shining example of the window into who he is. He is a legendary Steeler and a legendary man.”
Taken with the 16th pick in the 2003 NFL draft out of USC, Polamalu’s frenetic style and preternatural instincts allowed him to thrive in Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense. At his peak, Polamalu was arguably the most disruptive player in the league.
His ability to anticipate became highlight fodder, whether he was leaping over the line of scrimmage while trying to stuff a quarterback sneak or feathering his fingertips under the ball to pluck a pass before it struck the ground.
Still, beneath the hair that earned him a lucrative endorsement deal and the splash plays that changed the course of seasons — including a pick-six against Baltimore in the 2008 playoffs that paved the way for the team’s sixth Super Bowl title — was a man who defined himself as more than a football player. He was open about his Christian faith and made the sign of the cross gesture following tackles.
Polamalu finishes with 32 career interceptions, a dozen sacks, seven fumble recoveries and five touchdowns.
BUTLER SUSPENDED FOUR GAMES: The NFL suspended Giants linebacker Victor Butler without pay for the first four games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances.
Butler, who signed with the Saints for the 2013 season but never played a regular-season down after tearing an ACL, is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.
MIAMI, POUNCEY AGREE TO EXTENSION: Miami offensive lineman Mike Pouncey agreed to terms on a multiyear contract extension.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Pouncey, who is going into his fifth season with the Dolphins, had been due to earn $7.4 million in 2015, which was to be the final year of his contract.
He was a Pro Bowl center in 2013.