BALTIMORE -- The best two safeties in the NFL -- Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed -- will be at M&T Bank Stadium today when the Steelers open their regular season against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers have ensured they will keep Polamalu, the 2010 NFL defensive player of the year, around much longer.
Beating by one day their own self-imposed deadline of not negotiating player contracts once the regular season begins, the Steelers signed Polamalu to a four-year, $36.5 million contract that includes a $10.55 million signing bonus -- a deal that averages $9.1 million annually and makes Polamalu the highest-paid safety in the NFL.
"I am happy to say I will retire a Pittsburgh Steeler," Polamalu said on Twitter, announcing his own new contract.
It has been a whirlwind two months for Steelers president Art Rooney II, who has managed to sign five key players since the start of training camp. In addition to Polamalu, Rooney was able to get new contracts for cornerback Ike Taylor, offensive tackle Willie Colon, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
Polamalu, 30, was scheduled to earn $6.4 million this season in what was the final year of a five-year, $33 million contract he signed before the 2007 season. But, by signing a new deal, he likely will count less against the salary cap because his signing bonus would be pro-rated over the life of the four-year deal.
"Thank God," safety partner Ryan Clark said on Twitter.
"My brother will retire a Steeler. That's the way it should be."
Curiously, it appeared the Steelers were not going to try to sign Polamalu this season, forcing them to designate him their franchise player in 2012. Even when the Steelers opted instead to open negotiations with Polamalu's agent, Marvin Demoff, last week, the two sides were so far apart that no deal appeared to be imminent.
But Rooney never relented, wanting to get Polamalu a new deal before the season started.
Polamalu appears to be fully recovered from a partially torn Achilles tendon that caused him to miss two games late in the 2010 season and bothered him in the playoffs.
He did not have surgery and rehabilitated his tendon under the care of a physician in Los Angeles.
Polamalu played in two of four preseason games -- he was held out of the opener against the Washington Redskins and the finale against the Carolina Panthers -- and said last week his ankle feels "awesome."
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org ; twitter: @gerrydulac