BALTIMORE -- The best two safeties in the National Football League -- Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed -- will be at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday 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 even 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 that will keep the six-time Pro Bowl player with the team through 2014.
"I am happy to say I will retire a Pittsburgh Steeler," Polamalu said on Twitter, announcing his own new contract.
The extension makes polamalu the highest paid safety in the NFL.
Polamalu is the latest in a line of key players to sign a new contract since the start of training camp, joining outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, cornerback Ike Taylor and tackle Willie Colon.
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 will probably 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 2010. 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 any deal did not appear imminent.
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 during the postseason. He did not have surgery and rehabilitated his tendon under the care of a physician in Los Angeles.
This summer, Polamalu played in two of the four preseason games -- he was held out of the opener and the finale -- and said last week his ankle feels "awesome."
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org ; twitter: @gerrydulac