Can’t bring myself to think about it that much.
And, even more, I can’t bring myself to envision how it would look.
That long-flowing hair protruding out of the back of a football helmet set atop those wide shoulders and that ever-identifiable No. 43 jersey closing swiftly on a receiver across the middle.
And then — WHAM — Troy Polamalu belting that offensive player so hard where each momentarily forgets where they are as the football innocently falls to the turf and the home crowd pushes the decibel level to seismic heights.
Then Polamalu bounces up and pumps his fist in celebration as he’s done so many times in a brilliant NFL career.
Only he’s wearing a Titans jersey.
Or playing for the Raiders.
Or Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans or some other NFL team not called the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Can’t bring myself to think about it; can’t bring myself to envision too much how out-of-place such a moment would look.
But, apparently, the moment has a real chance of happening.
You see, 93.7 The Fan Steelers Insider Ed Bouchette — the acclaimed beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — recently chimed in on what is looking more and more like a complex end to Polamalu’s days in Pittsburgh.
“[Polamalu’s situation] is the elephant in the room,” Bouchette told 93.7 The Fan. “I expect him not to be here by some means. The Steelers are hoping he would retire, but I don’t know if he is going to.”
Oh man. This all sounds like it is headed for Messyville.
Polamalu is 34 and a shell of what he once was when he was, unquestionably, one of the finest defensive players in the NFL from about 2004-2010.
He is a future Hall of Famer, but one with a healthy cap hit for next season who carries a contract through the 2016 season.
There doesn’t seem to be a way Polamalu could hobble through this coming season, let alone one more after that.
So the Steelers — and Polamalu — are at an amazing crossroads. In actuality, it is one of the most intriguing crossroads in the history of this brilliant franchise.
Do the Steelers cut the much-beloved Polamalu if he refuses to retire?
Do they keep him around hoping, by some hope, he will defy Father Time and those most recent games he’s put on tape and bounce back stronger next season?
Does Polamalu look within himself and come a determination that he isn’t effective at this level anymore, call a press conference and retire in a situation that would seem to make everyone come out looking good?
Or does the dreaded happen?
Do we see this franchise cutting him then Polamalu trying to grit out the last remaining bits of his football life in the uniform of another team, bent on playing until the very end?
Lord, I hope it isn’t that final scenario.
It just wouldn’t look right; it would feel so wrong, so out of place.
But if we have learned anything about Polamalu in the more-than-a-decade he has graced us in our wonderful city, it is that he is a man of extraordinary independence who goes through life the way he wants, with the purpose of making his God and those closest to him happy.
More than just about any other athlete who has ever played in this town, I can’t think of someone less apt to be swayed or influenced by the feelings of people outside his inner-circle.
In short, it seems all up to Troy now.
I just hope the last chapter in that wonderful career isn’t a brief snippet of him in another uniform.
It just wouldn’t look right.
For Steeler Nation, it just wouldn’t feel right.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.