Adoring fans carried star safety Troy Polamalu on their shoulders — passing him off, one to another, as though they could live through his efforts.
Such adulation during the parade downtown honoring the Steelers after their victory in Super Bowl XL in 2006 might have given someone else a bloated sense of entitlement.
Polamalu? He flew to Greece, living for four days in a 1,500-year-old monastery with Greek Orthodox monks.
Polamalu, who is Greek Orthodox, had stepped back to wonder what the victory and accompanying fame meant. He was unimpressed.
“Oh, OK, I won a Super Bowl,” he said. “So what? I didn’t have that fulfillment like what God could provide for me.”
Polamalu is one of several Steelers who make religion and prayer a way of life while engaging in a sport that rewards brutality. It is such a part of the Steelers’ culture that Polamalu and other defensive backs pray in a huddle between each series. Back in the locker room, a small carton of scripture books, entitled “Our Daily Bread,” sits on a shelf next to a box of footballs.
“Nowhere in the Bible does it say that followers of Christ are soft,” safety Ryan Clark said. “If you think of some of the stories in the Bible, some of the strongest, hardest and most sacrificial men were men of Christ.”
Catholic and nondenominational church services are offered to Steelers players in the hotel the night before every game. Team chaplain Kevin Jordan, a Christian minister, conducts the nondenominational service, which attracts as many as 30 players, he said. He also leads players, their wives and girlfriends in Bible study during the week.
Nose tackle Chris Hoke, a Mormon who taught the religion to students in Belgium and France in 1995 and 1996, doesn’t attend the services, but he said he prays often.
“I do everything I can to stay close to my faith,” he said.
Rev. David Bonnar, pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Mt. Lebanon, presided over the Steelers’ Catholic service for 12 years and said attendance “was like the harvest. Every year is different. It depends on how many Catholics were on the team.”
He said one of his most fulfilling experiences was when tight end Mark Bruener accompanied him to Catholic high schools where Bonnar was attempting to recruit for the priesthood. Bruener, now a scout for the Steelers, spoke to the students about his relationship with God, Bonnar said.
Photo: Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike
Taylor pray together before the opener against the Falcons. Polamalu and
other defensive backs pray in a huddle between each defensive series. By Chaz Palla / Tribune-Review