When Troy Polamalu retires, he might be a fringe Hall of Fame candidate. He's been a dominant, dynamic safety for the Steelers for much of the last decade, won two Super Bowls, and is one of the NFL's most popular players. And his long hair, so distinctive, might make him one of a handful of NFL players instantly recognizable with or without a helmet.
So when Polamalu pulls off a pick-six, people care, because people know and like Troy Polamalu, and like when cool-looking dudes with long hair sprint to the end zone.
But Polamalu's legacy might be both one of a truly loved football player on one hand, and one of an all-time great who was always hurt on the other.
Polamalu returned that interception for a touchdown in the second quarter of the Steelers' game against the Bengals, but, if you paying attention to the end of the clip, you will probably notice that Polamalu gets up a little gimpy. That's because he apparently turned his ankle launching into that dive for the end zone.
Polamalu didn't leave the game, though, meaning that injury just gets added to this season's knee injury that has kept the Steelers stalwart out of practice. He'll probably keep playing through it, just as he has played through minor injuries for his entire career. (He's also reportedly had seven concussions.)
And maybe that injury bug that makes Polamalu greater in some eyes, with his play showing his resilience. But it's worth wondering how long he can play — he's already 29, and the 30s are not kind to athletes who make their money in collision sports — and worth wondering if an abrupt end to a career might shape fans' perceptions of him.