Troy Polamalu on Leadership, Concussions and Junior Seau’s Suicide
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t exactly entering a new era, but things are certainly changing in Steel City. Several veterans are gone, and the offense is being overhauled by new coordinator Todd Haley. That said, the key cogs are still in place on defense, and 31-year-old safety Troy Polamalu is making a conscious effort to help ease the transition. Troy Polamalu joined Joe Starkey on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh to talk about his increased involvement in the offseason program, his leadership role on the team, the impact concussions could have on his career and the tragic death of fellow Samoan-American Junior Seau.
On why he’s been more present this offseason:
“More than any other year, the face of this franchise has changed. We’ve lost a lot of great leadership in Hines (Ward) and James Farrior, Aaron Smith, I forget who else. But there’s quite a bit of change and I just think that just to come here, obviously for myself to come get better as a football player. Another opportunity is very helpful. But just to kind of be around the team, try to provide some consistency as we start to change from one year to the next. But I don’t think I’ve ever been around a change this drastic in an offseason.”
On being more vocal than many would assume on the field:
“I think leadership is about the everyday struggle on the team and the consistency of somebody who’s willing to gather the morale of the team. Coach Tomlin always jokes to me that I don’t talk all week but on game day I turn into defensive coordinator.
On if concussions have made him think that his career might be shorter than it otherwise would have been:
“I don’t know if it would make my career shorter. It definitely has never changed my view on football. Football has taught me and I’ve had this, I guess maybe kind of growing motto in my life, is to live day-to-day and never to take anything for granted. I’ve been injured, I’ve missed large parts of football seasons and sometimes you get caught up in, ‘Oh man, OTAs or all this practice,’ but when it’s taken away from you, you realize how much you miss it. … Whether this concussion issue is really as big as it may seem to be, I don’t think it would really change my view on anything.”
On if he’d want his son to play football:
“Absolutely. This game has provided me with a lot of beautiful life lessons, and I definitely would like my son to learn that. Because I don’t think he can learn these type of — you’re not faced with the same type of situations in other sports as you are in football.”
On being fearful every time he plays:
“Absolutely. You see injuries, people being paralyzed. People die on the football field, maybe not in the NFL, but it puts a lot of things in perspective, as I said before. You just never know when it’s gonna be your last play or your last moment.”
On the death of Junior Seau:
“We were obviously connected through our culture and through playing ball at USC. But the day after, my family sat down with his family, we did a traditional Samoan ceremony of what’s proper after a death. But tragedy strikes somebody somewhere in the world every day, and I felt so sorry for that community that surrounded Junior. And it’s just amazing that somewhere in the world, that happens to people. It’s really saddening, but it also should put things in perspective for people, just to be grateful for what we have. But I just felt so horrible for his mother. We sat down with his mother and his father and his older brother who he was really, really close with, and it was very sad. For the family’s sake, I hope they find something wrong with his brain — CT, whatever it may be — because, I can imagine as a parent that has a child that commits suicide, you would feel like you failed as a parent, you know? It was tough though.”