The NFL is vicious. There's no player so respected or so beloved that he won't be forced out the door when his abilities no longer justify his cap hit. It happens to everyone, eventually. It's happening to Troy Polamalu.
A future hall of famer and one of the most popular players in Steelers history, Polamalu is done. He may not be done playing—his agent says he's still deciding, and a former teammate claims Polamalu wants to play somewhere in 2015—but his skills are gone. He was worse than a nonfactor last season, actively hamstringing the Steelers' secondary with his total inability to hang with younger, faster receivers. He was probably most effective during the four games he missed with a sprained knee.
He's also due $6 million in base salary next season. That's untenable. Not that we need team sources to confirm it, but they do: the Steelers want Polamalu to announce his retirement so they don't have to unceremoniously cut him.
The Steelers have a history of cutting beloved-but-aging players—which, more than anything else, may be a function of them having had so many talented, long-tenured players over the years—and some of those careers have ended uglier than others. Polamalu will likely spend the weekend gauging other teams' interests, but he's going to have to make a decision before free agency opens on Tuesday. If not, the Steelers have already made theirs.