It is rare when a team has multiple Hall of Famers in one class, let alone three different people heading in all at the same time. When two of those Hall of Famers are people that have such an integral part in recent franchise history, it is natural that it means something a little extra to those two involved. For Bill Cowher and Troy Polamalu, their time with the Steelers and what they accomplished in the Steel City is undoubtedly something they look fondly back upon.
Cowher, in particular, was part of the team that drafted a young Polamalu out of Southern California. It was not just the player in Polamalu that caught Cowher’s eye during his time in Pittsburgh, but the person that Polamalu became. It was the standout traits on and off the field that Cowher loved about Polamalu.
“It’s just special, he’s a special player,” Cowher said. “He’s a very unique guy. He’s a guy you had to gameplan for and at times you did not want to harness. I just remember in getting to know Troy, there’s always a reason behind everything he did.”
As for the person Polamalu is off the field, Cowher says more than anything, Polamalu is just a good-hearted person.
“Above all, he’s just a good guy,” Cowher said. “You know, I’ve kept in touch with a lot of guys, but there’s just a lot of special moments with a guy like him … going in with him and then going in with Alan Faneca the next day, that’s special.”
One example, in particular, highlighted just the type of player and person that Polamalu was to Cowher. In his calm, laid-back demeanor, Polamalu’s character stood out above most people in the flashy NFL landscape.
“I always saw him walking out of mass on Saturday night and on Sunday morning we would always have our worship service,” Cowher said. “When I saw him as a rookie, he would always come out of the mass and then he was the first one to our worship in the morning … I was wondering well, what’s your denomination and Troy said ‘Coach, I love all religions.”
However, the story does not end there, the love of religion carried over onto the football field, in an unexpected way.
“We were playing the San Diego Chargers and we ran a blitz zone, and LaDanian Tomlinson ran a swing pass. James Farrior and Troy both covered the tight end and didn’t pass it off, so they got a 75-yard touchdown. So, I started walking over to Troy and Chris Hope says ‘Coach, you can’t talk to Troy, he’s praying,’ and it was going to be a while.
“Troy goes to Chris a little bit later and asks, ‘Is he gone yet?’ So, Troy did not want to talk about his mistakes and always said he was praying.”
Cowher says a story like that is one of the biggest reasons he loves Polamalu as a player and a person.
“I love Troy Polamalu because I wasn’t going to yell at him, I wanted to make sure we wouldn’t mess up a play call as coaches,” Cowher said. “With Troy, you do not want to harness him. You just let him play, so if he got uncomfortable that made me uncomfortable”
Both Polamalu and Cowher will enshrined in Canton, Ohio, on August 7.