The Titans didn’t leave Pittsburgh with a win, but a pair of Titans safeties left with a lasting memory.
Former Steelers great Troy Polamalu stopped by the team hotel the night before the Titans-Steelers game. He spent time with Titans defensive cheap super bowl jerseys coordinator Dick LeBeau, and secondary coach Deshea Townsend. LeBeau coached Polamalu and Townsend with the Steelers, of course.
Titans safety Kevin Byard got to meet Polamalu, one of his NFL heroes.
“That was my favorite safety growing up,” Byard said. “I was a Steelers fan, so he was my favorite safety. I always liked Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins, but Troy Polamalu was at the top of my list.
“He came in the meeting. He didn’t say too much, but just to be in the presence of a guy I have been looking up to for a long time. I shook his hand and said I’ve been a fan for a long time. It was a great moment. … The plays he made, I am always going to look up to him. Just to be in his presence, that was awesome.”
A first-round pick of the Steelers in 2003 out of USC, Polamalu was named to eight Pro Bowls, and he was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. He’ll likely wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Before retiring in 2015, Polamalu he had 32 interceptions (including three returned for touchdowns), recovered seven fumbles and collected a dozen sacks — all with his distinctive hair flowing from underneath his helmet.
Titans safety Johnathan Cyprien met Polamalu as well.
“Looking at him, you don’t get too star struck, but looking at him I kind of got a little star struck,” Cyprien said. “All the talk about Troy is that he is a real quiet, reserved person, so just me being myself, I wouldn’t want to pressure him to talk about different things. But it was cool to shake his hand, and introduce myself. I am sure Deshea talked to him about our entire room, but it was pretty cool to just to see him.”
Polamalu left his mark on the Titans.
During a 2010 game, he flew over the line to tackle quarterback Kerry Collins. Polamalu also got Collins in the 2009 NFL season opener at Pittsburgh, snagging a pass intended for Kenny Britt with one hand for a highlight-reel interception.
In 2013, Polamalu busted through the Titans offensive line — between center Rob Turner and guard Chance Warmack — to tackle quarterback Jake Locker just as he took the snap.
Byard, who leads the NFL with six interceptions, chatted with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after Thursday’s game as well.
“Ben came up to me at the end of the game and told me I was going to be a hell of a safety, and I told him I’d been looking up to him for a long time,” Byard said. “It would have been great with a win, but you have to get back in that lab and get back to work.”
The Titans return to action on Sunday vs. the Colts.