MIAMI – He let his hair grow so long that it flowed out of his helmet and covered the name on the back of his jersey.
No matter. Everyone knew where to find Troy Polamalu on Sundays.
The Steelers earned a place in the Hall of Fame on Saturday with Steve Atwater from Denver. Also included were recipient Isaac Bruce, who returned Edgerrin James and guard Steve Hutchinson.
Polamalu said he had gone six or seven years, maybe even longer, without cutting his hair in the heyday of his career, which lasted from 2003 to 2014. As for hair, he got the nickname "Tasmanian Devil" because he changed the way people thought about the security position – he was racing around the field and playing practically from anywhere. No quarterback, runner or recipient was safe.
Polamalu was awarded four victories in his first year as an All-Pro. He was selected to eight pro bowls and finished them three times with two Super Bowl rings. His Pick-6 against Joe Flacco in the 2008 AFC title game was part of a dominant performance in his perhaps best season. That year he had seven interceptions and the Steelers won the Super Bowl.
Though breakthrough security measures weren't new to the league, Polamalu could line up near the linebackers or defenders or deep in the background, destroying a game board from any of these locations.
"It wakes people up for the impact security can have on today's game," said John Lynch in an interview when Polamalu was in its prime.
Lynch, who was the 49er GM this week in Miami, was also among the 15 finalists whose resumes were discussed and debated by four dozen voters throughout the day. But he didn't make it. Neither did Tony Boselli, the Jaguar's dominant offensive player, whose career lasted only 91 games due to shoulder injuries. The jaguars are still without players in the hall.
An offensive lineman did it, however. It was Steve Hutchinson who played guard for the Seahawks, Vikings and Titans over a 12-year career. He has been a finalist in all three years since he qualified and broke through that class with no slam dunks – or a single quarterback on the list of finalists.
Atwater did it – in its 16th year of eligibility, no less. – and became the first native Broncos defender to join the hall. (An honor many in Denver think should belong to Orange Crush's linebacker, Randy Gradishar.)
Atwater, a two-time all-pro who won two Super Bowls, ran through the field and delivered malicious hits to anyone who encountered him. An irony of Atwater's late-night size is that many of his slingshots would be illegal in today's NFL.
Although the recipients were largely at risk, it was his shoulder-to-shoulder disintegration of the £ 250 bosses who brought Christian Okyoe back to "The Nigerian Nightmare" while hanging up on Monday Night Football in 1990 that Atwater really did brought the card up to speed.
James might not have had such a unique moment, but he was a bastion of versatility and durability. He made a name for himself with his ability to make room on the floor when he played with the Colts on Peyton Manning's offensive from 1999 to 2005. James also played three seasons with the Cardinals and six months with the Seahawks.
James ended up with more than 3,300 yards of reception and more than 12,000 yards of hurry. In 1999 and 2000 he won the NFL Rushing title because Manning accelerated his career at the time. James joins Colts with Marvin Harrison in the hall, which will get Manning more company next year when he's at his first choice.
Bruce was a headliner in "The Greatest Show on Turf", the fun-loving attack by Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner when the Rams were in St. Louis. This was Bruce & # 39; s sixth season and his fourth time as a finalist.
His 15,208 yards, which he received in 16 seasons, were second in the NFL record book when he retired in 2009. However, he was never voted AP All-Pro played in as any sign of true greatness.
No seniors were announced on Saturday because they were included in the 100-year special class of new entrants to the hall, which will be honored as part of the 100th anniversary of the NFL. Vintage cars announced last month included Harold Carmichael, Donnie Shell, and Alex Karras.