Troy Polamalu was selected as a first-ballot Hall of Fame safety this year. Here’s why former Steelers defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, thinks he’s the best safety that has ever played.
We all remember how special of a player Troy Polamalu was to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though he played a full sesaon just 6 of 12 times in his NFL career, the 4-time All-Pro safety and former Defensive Player of the Year was unlike anything else the game had to offer.
While the discussion of who is the best safety of all-time typically always includes Ravens Hall of Famer, Ed Reed, Polamalu’s name should be thrown in as well.
"“Yeah, I guided him, alright. I stayed the h*** out of his way…Troy had the ability to go from point A to point B probably as quickly as any man I’ve ever seen… he confused offenses. He had great anticipation. I think he’s the best safety that’s ever played, that’s my opinion. Of course, it is biased. Troy is one in a million – as a player, as a person.”"
LeBeau should know Polamalu just about as well as anyone. While Polamalu’s career with the Steelers stretched from 2003-2014, LeBeau joined the Steelers in 2004 and remained the defensive coordinator until Polamalu retired.
The two had a special relationship, as Polamalu was not always asked to pick up assignments a safety typically would. Rather, LeBeau would let him off the leash to use his instincts and playmaking ability to anticipate where the play was going and attack.
While Polamalu occasionally guessed wrong, the nation was in awe of his uncanny instincts and his ability to read a defense and react in a moment’s notice. Fans were particularly impressed with his ability to time the snap and make a play in the backfield – something he did on numerous occasions.
LeBeau made no mention of other safeties during his radio interview, but I’m convinced that he believes Polamalu is the best safety to ever play the game. While all-time greats like Ed Reed or Earl Thomas were nightmares for quarterbacks in the secondary, Polamalu could make you pay from any level of the field. He also proved to be incredibly clutch in key moments leading up to both of Steelers Super Bowl runs.
Nobody was surprised to see Polamalu enter the Hall of Fame on his first attempt, and I don’t have a problem with anyone who wants to pencil his name in at the top of the list of greatest Steeles of all-time. To me, he’s certainly in that category with players like Rod Woodson, Joe Greene, and Jack Lambert.
While everybody will continue to have their own opinions about how good Troy Polamalu was, it’s comforting to know that Dick LeBeau – one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time – views Polamalu as the best to ever play the position.