One of the biggest decisions the Pittsburgh Steelers may have to make in the offseason will concern safety Troy Polamalu.
Polamalu has experienced a bit of a bounce back, especially in recent weeks, but if the 7-8 Steelers miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season, major changes could be expected on the defensive side of the ball and Polamalu and his big contract could be one of the first to go.
The Steelers’ defense currently is the NFL’s oldest, with an average age of 29, and isn’t playing at the level it did while leading the league in 2011 and 2012, ranking 14th this season.
Polamalu hasn’t been himself for most of the season and has a significant salary cap hit of nearly $10.9 million for 2014, the final season of his contract. Because he has no dead money resulting from prior restructurings, the Steelers could cut him and immediately free up $8.25 million in cap space.
When you consider the fact that the Steelers will enter the offseason more than $10 million over the projected cap, which is a significant chunk of change they could free up.
However Polamalu is uncertain about any of the contract talk, telling the Tribune-Review’s Alan Robinson:
“I don’t know,” the seven-time Pro Bowl safety said Thursday about his future in Pittsburgh. “My intention is to play on Sunday, and we’ll see what happens from there on. I have no idea what my cap situation is. I have no idea about dead money, live money; to be honest I don’t even know what I make.”
The Steelers could ask Polamalu to restructure his deal as we saw a similar situation take place last offseason with James Harrison, and it could end in similar fashion with Polamalu in a different uniform.
If he weren’t wearing black and gold next season you have to wonder if Polamalu would look to play or hang up the cleats. That’s something he is also uncertain of at the moment.
“I don’t know,” Polamalu said. “I really don’t know. … The chips will land wherever they may after this game, and we’ll see. Unfortunately, this is a business. The higher-ups make their decisions to take care of their families, and the players have to make their decisions to take care of their families. That’s the unfortunate part of this business.”
There are quite a few players on this current Steelers team who will be playing their final game in a Steelers uniform on Sunday, assuming the team misses out on the postseason.
Unlike all of the others, it will be tough to see Polamalu potentially wearing a different uniform.
You hate to look too far ahead past Sunday, but you never know who will be gone.
You will want to enjoy Polamalu while you can, as there is a chance Sunday could be your final glimpse of him.