What if Troy Polamalu played for the Steelers in the 1970s?

Safety Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Safety Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /
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Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers
Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Troy Polamalu’s assets for playing with Steelers in the 1970s

Eras in the NFL are extremely different from one to the next. Hence not all players would necessarily improve playing in another period.

Take, for instance, wide receiver Hines Ward. Undoubtedly a great receiver and would have fit very well with the Steelers of the 1970s. However, defensive backs would have negated a certain percentage of his talent with the lenient rules for cornerbacks and safeties. Plus, teams ran the ball predominantly in that era with a few exceptions, such as quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton or Joe Namath.

While seeing Ward knock Ted Hendricks into next week on a blindside block would have been fun, Ward still would have had a negligible effect on making the 1970s squad a better team.

Troy Polamalu, on the other, had would not have the same problems Ward would face going back four decades.

Here’s why. Polamalu had an athleticism very few NFL athletes have or ever had. He had great speed, he could leap through the air not only to intercept the ball but soar over the offensive linemen, crumpling a quarterback before he could drop into the pocket, shoestring one-handed interceptions, and delivering punishing hits. Simply put, he made the impossible look incredibly simple. Polamalu just knew things and anticipated things that no one else on the team could.

According to Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, when he was an assistant coach for Pittsburgh, Polamalu swiped the ball out of a Baltimore Ravens player’s hands, and Arians heard someone on the Ravens sideline yell, “How can you not know where the hair is?”

Polamalu played from 2003 through2014, an era when certain hits can be penalized, you can not bump the receiver after 5 yards, and it’s easy to get flagged for pass interference.

Take Polamalu back 40 years, and he would have the freedom to do things he only dreamt about as a player in the NFL.