The Steelers are hoping for a chaotic final Sunday so that they can wind up advancing to the playoffs out of a five-way scrum of 8-8 teams, but that’s not the likeliest outcome.
It’s more likely that the Steelers’ season will come to an end whether Pittsburgh wins or loses and that the team will start their offseason on Monday. That offseason will feature another round of decisions on veteran members of the roster as the Steelers try to get under the cap while also trying to restock the roster with talent that can help them make it back to the postseason.
One player who will be part of those decisions is safety Troy Polamalu. Polamalu, who turns 33 in April, and will have a salary cap charge of almost $10.9 million in the final year of his contract with the team. While he expects to return next season, Polamalu has seen many teammates leave Pittsburgh over the years and knows that the business side can sometimes drive decisions. That means Polamalu is leaving everyting on the table, including the possibility of retirement.
“I don’t know,” Polamalu said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I really don’t know. … The chips will land wherever they may after this game, and we’ll see. I want to play this game as long and as good as I can play it. Whenever that [retirement] time comes, it will come. I’m not sure when it will come, though.”
Assuming the Steelers want him around, an extension that adds a year or more to Polamalu’s tenure could help bring his cap number to a more manageable level. That seems a more likely outcome than retirement or release, but, like Polamalu, we’ll see where the chips land once the Steelers season officially ends.