Steelers looking to lock up safety by the start of training camp
Troy Polamalu wanted to return to the West Coast to be near his family when his contract expired after this season, or so rumors have had it.
If so, he will return for visits only.
Polamalu, the most unique strong safety in the NFL and among its best, has come so close to a contract extension with the Steelers that sources close to the negotiations believe he will sign a new deal around the opening of training camp Monday.
Terms of the contract were unavailable but it likely will put him near the top among the Steelers' best-paid players.
Polamalu had one season left on a five-year contract he signed as the Steelers' first-round draft choice in 2003. He was scheduled to earn a salary of $1,088,000 this season, which could be one-tenth of the signing bonus he will earn with a new deal.
Polamalu made the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons after becoming a starter in 2004. He helped turn the Steelers' defense into a work of confusion for opposing offenses.
Coordinator Dick LeBeau deploys Polamalu all over the field and takes maximum advantage of his quickness, speed and instincts.
Polamalu often lines up in one spot and ends up in another at the snap of the ball. He has been used as a deep safety, linebacker, cornerback and pass-rusher.
There were times when he lined up on the outside of the defensive end on the left side and, just as the ball was snapped, sped to his right and blitzed from that side.
Polamalu, 26, was born in California, grew up in Oregon and played at Southern California. There were rumors the past year that he would play his final season with the Steelers, then sign with a team on the West Coast.
Polamalu always denied that, saying he was happy playing for the Steelers and noting he made his year-round home in Pittsburgh with his wife Theodora.
Signing the popular Polamalu to a contract extension is crucial for the Steelers, who enter a transition period under new coach Mike Tomlin and some of their roster veterans.
They released captain and linebacker Joey Porter in March while another captain, six-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, publicly ripped the team for not negotiating a contract extension and skipped all but the required spring practices.
Some players have wondered about the organization's commitment because of the actions involving Porter and Faneca.
Faneca is one of three starters on the offensive line who enter the final years of their contracts, along with guard Kendall Simmons and tackle Max Starks. No progress has been reported on any of those talks and no more negotiations are expected to take place this year. Two other starters, linebacker Clark Haggans and fullback Dan Kreider, also are on the last year of contracts. Polamalu's deal might be the last one consummated in 2007 for a Steelers veteran.