LATROBE, Pa. (AP) – Pittsburgh Steelers star safety Troy Polamalu signed a four-year contract extension Monday worth $30.19 million that makes him the highest-paid player in team history and one of the NFL’s top-paid defensive backs.
The deal guarantees the Steelers will keep their most versatile defensive player through the 2011 season, when he will be 30, meaning Polamalu could negotiate another big-money contract before his NFL career ends.
Even if Polamalu said he didn’t want to leave as a free agent after this season and doesn’t expect to want to take off four years from now, either.
“I didn’t want to be a player who is jumping from team to team,” Polamalu said. “I’ve always felt comfortable here, I think this organization, this tradition they have here, is very legendary and I always wanted to be part of this.”
Polamalu, an All-Pro safety in 2005, already was due to make $1,088,000 in salary and $1,722,000 in guaranteed bonuses this season, for a total contract of $2,810,000 and a salary cap value of $1,632,000. His extension kicks in next season and will pay him a guaranteed $15,375,000 during the 2008-2011 seasons in guaranteed money and roster bonuses, which are automatically paid as long as he is on the team.
“You have to earn the money,” Polamalu said. “It’s not for what I did in the past, it’s for what I’ve got to earn now.”
How could he earn that?
“Four Super Bowls in a row?” he said, smiling. “Go out and play hard, that’s all I could do individually.”
Previously, the Steelers’ highest-paid player was wide receiver Hines Ward, who signed a four-year extension in 2005 that has a maximum value of $25.8 million and guarantees him $10 million. That deal runs through 2009.
“I’m very happy to get this done. The Rooneys were very fair and I think both sides are very happy to get this done very peacefully and without any feelings hurt at all,” Polamalu said, referring to team owner Dan Rooney and president Art Rooney II.
Polamalu’s signing was the second major contract deal by the Steelers in two days, but is likely to be their last before this season begins. On Sunday, they agreed to a five-year contract with outside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, their first-round draft pick, that guarantees him $12 million and could be worth as much as $15 million.
All-Pro Alan Faneca sought a contract extension during the offseason, but was unhappy when he was offered a deal that he said was worth less than the NFL’s other premier guards make.
During a May minicamp, Faneca said this will be his final season in Pittsburgh, and he reiterated that Monday. Faneca, a five-time All-Pro left guard, is making $4,375,000 this season but could possibly make twice that as a free agent next year.
Polamalu wanted to get this contract done – and do so without negotiating in public – to avoid the problems Faneca had.
“I feel for Alan, it’s a shame,” Polamalu said. “He’s got a wife and kids and a lifestyle to uphold and, hopefully, he can get something done that’s fair.”
Polamalu, one of the most versatile players in Steelers history, was a first-team All-Pro player when Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl during the 2005 season and was a second team All-Pro in 2004. He made the Pro Bowl the last three seasons and, besides being known for the flowing black hair that streams out of his helmet, is widely regarded as one of the league’s top defensive players.
Polamalu, a former Southern California player, has 10 sacks and 10 interceptions during his four-season career.
“I’m very excited about this (contract),” said new Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who no longer must worry about Polamalu possibly leaving after this season.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who was retained by Tomlin, uses the strong safety in a variety of positions, sometimes lining Polamalu up as an outside linebacker in the pass rush, on the inside on running plays or deep in a traditional formation.
“Troy Polamalu is a very special football player who has been a key ingredient to our success over the past few seasons,” Art Rooney II said. “We are excited to know he will be a Steeler for many seasons to come.”
Polamalu’s contract was announced minutes before the Steelers officially opened their first training camp under Tomlin with conditioning tests, a previously much-dreaded drill that former coach Bill Cowher always held on the second day of camp.