Troy Polamalu walked off of Heinz Field for the final time as a player on January 3, 2015. The eight-time Pro Bowler and soon-to-be Hall of Fame safety has not been back to Heinz Field for a Steelers game in the years since his final down as a member of the franchise.
That will change in 2021, however, as Polamalu confirmed to Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell that he plans to return to Heinz Field this fall. Specifically, Polamalu plans to be present for his Hall of Honor induction ceremony. Polamalu is part of the Steelers' 2020 class that also includes former defensive teammate James Farrior, linebacker Greg Lloyd, safety Mike Wagner and defensive lineman Dwight White.
"God willing, this season, my family and I will be able to make it back to Pittsburgh, for a couple of games at least," Polamalu said during a virtual media session on Wednesday.
One of five former Steelers who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, Polamalu was a fan favorite during his dozen seasons with the Steelers. Following a tumultuous rookie season, Polamalu became a full-time starter during his rookie season in 2004. That was a breakout year for both Polamalu and the Steelers, who went 15-1 during the regular season en route to an AFC Championship Game appearance. Along with Polamalu, the Steelers had another notable first-year starter in then-rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"It legitimized the fact that we can play with the big boys," Polamalu said of the Steelers, a 6-10 outfit the previous season. "Midway through the season, we had beaten two unbeaten teams, which were Philadelphia and New England (the teams that would ultimately face each other in that year's Super Bowl). ... Philadelphia, if I remember correctly, had Terrell Owens, who was extremely talented, and Donovan McNabb. Obviously, everybody knows that Tom Brady is a pretty good quarterback as well (laughs) that we lost to (in the AFC Championship Game). That year was a very significant year because we [realized] we were good enough to play with everybody."
The '04 season was a springboard to even bigger things for Polamalu and his teammates. The 2005 Steelers became the first sixth seed to win the Super Bowl. Three years later, the 2008 Steelers set numerous defensive records while helping Pittsburgh win its sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy. In 2010, Polamalu garnered Defensive Player of the Year honors while helping the Steelers make a third trip to the Super Bowl over a six-year span.
Polamalu, who will be presented in Canton, Ohio, by former defensive coordinator (and fellow Hall of Fame defensive back) Dick LeBeau, said he retired at "the most perfect time" after the 2014 season. The same could be said of his decision to return to Heinz Field this fall, where he will undoubtedly receive a raucous ovation from Steelers fans.
"Pittsburgh, to me, is home," Polamalu said. "It served as one of the most significant places in my life. It's where I grew. It's where my wife and I were married. It's where I learned about spirituality. ... I don't feel so much of a connection as much as a sports town hero as much as I was just another a member of the community there."