Dick LeBeau Calls Troy Polamalu a ‘100-Year Player’


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Safety Troy Polamalu #43 talks to Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau on the sidelines against the Houston Texans on October 2, 2011.

On Tuesday former Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu selected Dick LeBeau, his longtime defensive coordinator, to be his presenter at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in August.

A day later, LeBeau took the opportunity to speak with Teresa Varley of Steelers.com about Polamalu and what differentiates Troy from pretty much every other professional football player.

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Dick LeBeau on ‘Why Troy is Troy’

“We all know what he did was completely one-in-a-million type of athletic feats,” said LeBeau, who served as Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator in three separate decades, including 2004-14, years that overlapped almost all of Polamalu’s Hall of Fame career.

One of the things that made Polamalu special was his soft-spoken, humble nature.

“That is why Troy is Troy,” added LeBeau. “He doesn’t think what he did is particularly exceptional, with the assistance of his teammates. We had a great bunch, but Troy was as productive and more as any.”

Indeed Polamalu was spectacularly productive at strong safety. Over the course of 158 games (2003-14) he recorded 783 total tackles (583 solo), including 56 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and 12 quarterback hits. He also intercepted 32 passes and forced 14 fumbles while recovering seven others.

All that helps explain why he was a first-ballot selection for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not to mention a four-time first-team All-Pro, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, an eight-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.


‘There Won’t Be Another Safety Like Him in 100 Years’

“I think the good Lord made only one Troy and I am very thankful he placed him in our lives, that being mine and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s a once in a generational player. There won’t be another safety like him in another 100 years,” concluded LeBeau, loosely likening him to a 100-year storm or 100-year flood—that is, the kind of player that has a one percent chance of coming around in any given year.

Yet he won’t be the only Pittsburgh safety inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 7, 2021. On that same day, former Steelers safety Donnie Shell will be enshrined with him, along with former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.

Of course, LeBeau, 83, is already a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having been enshrined as a member of the Class of 2010. LeBeau was a fifth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 1959 NFL Draft but was released during training camp his rookie year. He went on to play for the Detroit Lions for 14 seasons (1959-72) and intercepted 62 passes over the course of 185 career games.

Hall of Fame Weekend 2021 will be a big weekend for the Steelers organization, as former offensive guard Alan Faneca will be inducted on August 8. The festivities kick off, literally and figuratively, when the Steelers take on the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game on Thursday August 5th. It will be Pittsburgh’s seventh appearance in the annual classic, having posted a 3-3 record in its prior appearances.

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