Is Troy Polamalu a First Ballot Hall of Famer?


Inevitably when an NFL player retires his career must be instantly qualified. While it takes five years to be eligible to be on the ballot for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the debate over one’s worthiness to be on that ballot can often begin before they’ve even considered hanging up the cleats.

In the case of Troy Polamalu, his late night call to Dan Rooney on Thursday night to announce his retirement already sparked the debate on whether or not the safety would be enshrined in Canton in 2020.

The overwhelming majority of the NFL community will only ever have positive things to say about Troy Polamalu, there’s no denying that. But when considering whether a player can be considered a “first ballot HOFer” there’s a nitty gritty you get into when it comes to stats, positions, and all kinds of other variables.

What Troy has stacked against him as far as his path to Canton is the fact that currently there are only 24 total defensive back Pro Football Hall of Fame members. Of those, only six of them played only safety and not a cornerback/safety hybrid or transitioned from one to the other at some point in their career. Last year Aeneas Williams was inducted into the fall of fame after waiting ten years on the ballot.

Another knock against Troy, if there can be a knock, will be his injuries. Troy missed a lot of time. He only played a full season five years of his twelve years in Pittsburgh. While some HOF voters might hold that against him saying he didn’t have durability, others might say that it’s a testament to the recklessly insane way he played the position and even more impressive the impact he made even with missing so much time.

So let’s take a look at the stats that will be passed around the rooms of the voters in five years:

"Tackles: 770"

"Interceptions: 32"

"Sacks: 12"

"Pro Bowls: 8"

"Super Bowls: 2"

"2010 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year"

To put those numbers in perspective, we’ll take a look at the safety Polamalu is most compared to and the one who will be eligible for the Hall a year before Troy, Ed Reed. Reed has twice as many interceptions as Polamalu but half as many sacks and was also AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.

The other big difference is the two played different positions. Reed was a free safety and by far a better cover man while Polamalu was a strong safety and primarily lined up closer to the line of scrimmage. If Reed gets in first ballot, there’s no reason Polamalu won’t but if Reed doesn’t get in first ballot, I still think Polamalu stands a chance at jumping over him and getting in his first year.

Hall of Famer and former Steelers

Rod Woodson

said on the Rich Eisen show that he didn’t think Troy’s numbers equaled a first ballot Hall of Fame selection. He even went as so far to say that he didn’t think Troy’s numbers were more impressive than current Steelers defensive backs coach and Woodson’s former teammate,

Carnell Lake


Former Steelers coach

Bill Cowher

, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate when he was asked whether or not Troy was a lock for a first ballot.

"“No doubt about it.” – Bill Cowher"

The determination of the Hall of Fame shouldn’t come down to what stats on a sheet of paper say. If it did, those guys wouldn’t stay in that room arguing for hours at a time each year. The impact the player had on their team, the games they played in and the league itself certainly play a role in if and when a player gets voted in.

The praise of Troy Polamalu over the past few days has been overwhelming and must be for a guy as humble as Troy is described as. His former defensive coordinator described him as a “blessing” for a coach to have.

"“Troy has the most versatility of any of the defensive backs that I’ve coached. He literally could do anything. You could ask him to blitz, he’s going to be a great blitzer. If you ask him to cover a wide receiver, he’s probably doing to do a good job there. If you ask him to play in the linebacker area and chase down the runner, he’ll do that well, and he can coordinate the coverage from behind. He has a great knowledge of the defense. I couldn’t find a weakness in Troy, and that’s a true blessing from a defensive coordinator’s standpoint. He just kind of opens the playbook to anything you want to do. It’s just a matter of how far off the diving board you want to go.” – Dick LeBeau"

Basically, I’m saying that Troy is a lock for the first ballot Hall of Fame. And that’s not just the yinzer in me talking, that’s the genuine football fan that knows that Troy Polamalu is everything the NFL wants in a player to be a part of representing the league as the greatest of all time. With the way that he played the game and the way that he influenced everyone he came across, Troy Polamalu was a transcendent player, those guys get in first ballot.

The only reason to debate the other side at this point, in my opinion, is to just have the debate at all. It would be silly if all the sites and shows across the board were all in agreement that Polamalu was a first ballot Hall of Famer and no one differed. There are contrarians everywhere but when it comes to the Hall of Fame voting, I’m confident they’ll get to work on how to correctly capture that famous hair in his bust.

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