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Last Hurrah with Hometown Steelers is Unexpected for Aaron Donald



Aaron Donald Steelers

After a decorated 10-year career that included eight first-team All-Pros, 10 Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl championship, three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald announced his retirement last Friday.

Donald’s next step is Canton. He’s a shoo-in as a first-ballot selection for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2029.

“I’m complete, I’m full. I think the passion to play the game is no longer there for me,” Donald said in a clip shared on social media. “I will always love football, but to think about going through another camp and another 17 [game] season, I just don’t got the urge to want to push myself to do that no more. I’m just, I’m burnt out, if anything, the best way to say it is that I’m full, I’m complete. I’m satisfied with what I was able to do in 10 years, and I think it’s time for me to, at 32 years old, retire from football and jump into the next step in my career, my life, and now it’s time to move on.”

In the same video, Donald addressed the possibility if he would ever come out of retirement and play for his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. Before carving out a Hall of Fame career with the Rams, Donald starred at Penn Hills and Pitt. The notion that he might conclude his career in the Black and Gold has frequently been brought up over the last few years, but Donald doesn’t want to play for another coach other than Sean McVay.

“I love the Rams. I don’t want to retire nowhere else but the Rams. I told Sean when he first got there, as long as you’re the head coach, I wanna continue to be here. I wouldn’t want to be playing for no other coach than that guy,” Donald said.

There was a ton of speculation in the 2023 offseason that Donald could finish his career with the Steelers via a trade.

The Rams were coming off a 5-12 Super Bowl hangover season, and there was a perception that they were in a rebuild. The notion was that by offloading Donald they would recoup some of the draft picks they gave away in order to build a Super Bowl team in 2021. The Steelers were considered an ideal landing spot solely because of Donald’s Pittsburgh roots, and the fact that he trains at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex during the offseason with Dee Brown of Evolve 2Tenths Speed & Agility.

However, in August, former NFL insider Peter King of NBC Sports discredited the speculation by stating that “Donald does not have a burning desire to play for his hometown team.” And sure enough, during an interview with the L.A. media in October prior to the Steelers-Rams game, Donald pretty much echoed that statement.

“Not really, no,” Donald said when asked if he ever thought about finishing his career in Pittsburgh as a Steeler. “I never thought of it. I never thought about it.”

Donald finished his career 0-3 against the Steelers, with losses coming in 2015, 2019 and 2023. The 2019 game was the only time in his NFL career that he played in Pittsburgh.