(Reuters) - Troy Polamalu’s decision to retire from the NFL was confirmed by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday and the team called the future Hall of Fame safety one of the best players ever to wear the black and gold.
Polamalu, who was as easily recognized on the field for the mass of wavy hair that spilled out of the back of his helmet as for his outstanding play, is one of the most beloved players in the storied franchise’s history.
“We’ve been fortunate to have great players throughout the years, but he of course would be one of the top players,” Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said in a statement.
“He did everything with dignity and responsibility, and it was special to have Troy be a Steeler his entire career.”
Polamalu, who turns 34 this month, was selected by the Steelers in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft and blossomed into one of the best safeties of his generation, playing a key role in Pittsburgh’s two Super Bowl wins during his tenure.
His retirement was first reported late on Thursday by The Herald-Standard newspaper in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
“It’s all about family,” Polamalu told the newspaper. “I live here in Pittsburgh now, and since the end of the season I’ve had a chance to enjoy my family on a level I never had before. It was awesome.”
Polamalu, who was born in the United States but is of Samoan descent, retires after 12 seasons with the Steelers in which the eight-time Pro Bowl safety established himself as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
He started nine games last season before an injury resulted in sprained knee ligaments and forced him to miss four of the final seven games. He returned for the team’s opening-round playoff loss to Baltimore.
Polamalu, who had two years left on his contract, finished his career with 32 interceptions, tied for seventh-most in franchise history, 12 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries during 158 regular season games.
“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,” said Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin.
“It’s a shining example of the window into who he is. He is a legendary Steeler and a legendary man.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond