MIAMI — There seemed to be just one certainty in the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class: Troy Polamalu would get in on the first ballot.
The Pittsburgh Steelers safety was one of the most recognizable, popular and effective players of this century. The 2003 first-round pick out of USC played 12 seasons, made eight Pro Bowls and helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls. He was an easy pick.
The rest of the class wasn’t as clear when the Hall of Fame voters met on the eve of the Super Bowl. The modern-era players to be voted in with Polamalu included offensive skill position stars Isaac Bruce and Edgerrin James, guard Steve Hutchinson and safety Steve Atwater. A special “centennial class” to acknowledge the NFL’s 100th season had previously been voted in, and it included coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson, former Eagles receiver Harold Carmichael and Detroit Lions defensive lineman Alex Karras.
Here’s a closer look at the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2020:
S Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers 2003-14
Polamalu’s playmaking ability was unmistakeable. He had 32 interceptions and 12 sacks in his career. His signature moment came in the 2008 playoffs, when he returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown in the AFC championship game to seal a Super Bowl trip for the Steelers.
Polamalu could cover ground like few safeties before or since. He was a physical player who also had a knack for getting his hands on the ball. Polamalu was the 2010 NFL defensive player of the year and a four-time All-Pro.
S Steve Atwater, Denver Broncos 1989-98, New York Jets 1999
The safety position was underrepresented in Canton for many years, but the Hall is getting two new safeties this year. Atwater’s long wait is over.
Atwater is known for his hard hitting, especially a famous collision that knocked big Chiefs running back Christian Okoye straight on his back. Atwater made eight Pro Bowls and was a big part of the Broncos’ back-to-back Super Bowl championship teams in the late 1990s.
RB Edgerrin James, Indianapolis Colts 1999-2005, Arizona Cardinals 2006-2008, Seattle Seahawks 2009
The Colts traded Marshall Faulk to the Rams, then used the fourth overall pick they received in the 1999 draft to take James. It turned out to be a trade with two Hall of Famers.
James led the NFL in rushing each of his first two seasons. He had seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his career, making four Pro Bowls. James was one of the best all-around backs of his era, catching 433 passes for 3,364 yards to go along with 12,246 rushing yards. James ranks 13th on the all-time rushing list.
WR Isaac Bruce, Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams 1994-2007, San Francisco 49ers 2008-09
Bruce had to wait a while despite posting 15,208 career receiving yards, which is fifth all-time. But the four-time Pro Bowler finally got in.
Bruce also made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history, catching a long go-ahead touchdown from Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXIV that stood up as the game-winning score over the Titans. Bruce, who led the NFL in receiving yards in 1996, finished with 1,024 career catches.
G Steve Hutchinson, Seattle Seahawks 2001-05, Minnesota Vikings 2006-11, Tennessee Titans 2012
Hutchinson had a memorable run with two teams. After being named first-team All-Pro twice with Seattle, he signed with the Vikings and was a three-time All-Pro in Minnesota. Hutchinson signing with the Vikings became infamous for the “poison pill” in the contract that made it virtually impossible for Seattle to match.
Overall the powerful Hutchinson, a first-round pick in 2001, made seven Pro Bowls.
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