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Late For Work 4/10: Reaction To Troy Polamalu's Retirement


Reaction To Polamalu's Retirement

Another iconic player in the classic Ravens-Steelers rivalry has decided to call it a career.

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu announced Thursday that he will retire after 12 seasons in Pittsburgh.

"What it came down to was definitely family," Polamalu told the Uniontown Herald-Standard. "If I'm in my fourth year, fifth year, even if I'm in my 10th year, I'm playing in Alaska. But when I started this process and started to debate whether I should come back or should I play, that was kind of the sign for me to say 'Whoa, if you're just even debating it maybe you shouldn't play anymore,' because what I do know about this game is it takes a lot –a lot – of commitment just to be an average player."

Polamalu was one of Pittsburgh's most dynamic players and a thorn in Baltimore's side. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and five-time All Pro, and played some of his biggest games against the Ravens.

And while he played for the chief rival, the Ravens have a great deal of respect for him.

"I love Troy Polamalu," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings last month. "Every time I talk to him, he's been nothing but gracious. He's a wonderful guy, great player. Wow, what a great player.

"You had to account for him at all times. We've had times where we didn't account for him. It's like, 'He's wearing No. 43, he's got hair down to his shoulders, there's no way we should miss the guy. Block him! Block him, please!'"

Despite a Hall of Fame career, injuries took their toll on the safety and he wasn't the same player in recent years.

 "It was clear in the weeks leading up to Troy Polamalu's retirement that the Steelers were done with him, and urged him to retire so they didn't have to cut him," wrote Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.

Polamalu's retirement is another example of the evolution that the Ravens-Steelers rivalry has gone through in recent years. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Hines Ward and Polamalu were some of the key players who shaped the rivalry into one of the best in sports, and none of them are part of it anymore.

Polamalu's final NFL game was the divisional-round loss to the Ravens at Heinz Field.

"The Baltimore Ravens will not soon forget Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu," wrote ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.

"The question now isn't whether he'll make it to Canton but when," wrote Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk. "It'll probably happen on the first ballot, depending on the other players and coaches with whom he'll be competing when he's first eligible in five years."

Troy Polamalu would do some crazy things on the football field....loved watching him play and competing against him...wish him the best — Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) April 10, 2015

Kiper Predicts Cornerback To Baltimore

Mel Kiper Jr. isn't buying into some of the talk coming out of Baltimore ahead of this year's draft.

The Ravens have downplayed their need at cornerback throughout the offseason, but ESPN's top draft analyst thinks that may just be a smokescreen. Kiper has released his latest mock draft and he projected Baltimore to take the talented Washington cornerback Marcus Peters with the No. 26 pick.

"Last year, injuries played a big role in Baltimore's pass defense becoming a major liability for the first time in years," Kiper wrote. "You just can't overstate the value of depth at this position."

This is Kiper's second-straight mock in which he has projected Peters to the Ravens.

Ravens brass has noted on several occasions over the last few months that the secondary will be much improved next year when top cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb both return to the lineup healthy. The team also has high hopes for young players like Asa Jackson and Rashaan Melvin.

But even with the secondary healthy, Kiper believes that Peters' talent would be too great to pass up near the end of the first round.

"The tape makes Peters one of the best bets from this draft class to be a useful cornerback right away," Kiper said.

Cornerbacks typically come off the board early in the draft, but Peters' stock has taken a hit because of off-the-field issues. He was dismissed from Washington's team after reported arguments with the coaching staff.

The Ravens told reporters this week that they brought Peters to Baltimore for a pre-draft visit to get a better sense of his character.

"I've noted before Peters has some question marks – he was dismissed from the team at Washington this past season – but if it's purely a question of talent, he's a potential steal at this point in the first round," Kiper wrote. "He's more than just a good player; he's the kind of talent that can turn bad throws into points for the defense."

Hensley: Reid Signing 'Most Unexpected Move of Offseason'

The Ravens added some offensive line depth Thursday by re-signing unrestricted free agent Jah Reid.

The move caught many in the media by surprise, and Hensley called it the "most unexpected move of the offseason."

Re-signing the fifth-year lineman gives the Ravens a veteran backup at guard and right tackle, and some insurance if starting right tackle Rick Wagner isn't ready for training camp as he recovers from foot surgery.

"It's still surprising that the Ravens couldn't find someone better and more dependable than Reid, and it's surprising that Reid didn't want a fresh start after a forgettable season," Hensley wrote. "Reid played a career-low four games and 10 offensive snaps in 2014. He was inactive for nine games."

The former third-round pick has dealt with injuries throughout his four-year career, but he did start seven games at left guard during the 2012 season. The Ravens are deep on the offensive line, and bringing Reid back creates even more competition among the group.

"There are no guarantees that Reid makes the Ravens this year, especially with Baltimore returning its top seven offensive linemen from last season," Hensley wrote. "If Wagner is ready by the start of camp and the Ravens draft a lineman, Reid will probably need a strong preseason to play for the Ravens for a fifth straight year."

 Quick Hits

  • The Ravens may miss out on facing Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell early in the season. Bell has been suspended three games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He plans to appeal the suspension. Playing without Bell is a significant blow to Pittsburgh's offense, which was evident when the Ravens beat the Steelers 30-17 in the divisional playoffs. []
  • The Ravens and Steelers are the only two NFL teams who have gone more than a decade without picking in the top-10. Key front office executives from both teams discuss their philosophies to picking in the first round. []
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